Press Release
August 4, 2016

Transcript of Ambush Interview of Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel

On the federal system of government

SP Pimentel: The leadership of both Houses can agree and come up with a particular model which should be the basis for the deliberations for both Houses of Congress.

Q: Kung magkaiba yung gusto, yung iba presidential, yung iba parliament, paano po yung proseso?

SP Pimentel: As highlighted in my opening remarks and in the presentation of my father, Senator Nene Pimentel, we are free to choose our own model, our own system, and we can borrow good points, good ideas from existing federal systems and existing presidential or parliamentary systems, from all over the world and then piece them all together in one puzzle, isama-sama, and this is now the Philippine model. This forum actually has guided me in thinking that President Duterte has been right all along for focusing us on the French model. We look at the US and Australia for the federal model but when it comes to the executive-legislative relationship, we look at the French model. The French model actually introduces parliamentary concepts, but basically retains the presidential form of government. Kung masyadong mabigat ang sabay-sabay ang changes na mag cha-change tayo sa federal and parliamentary, the French approach I think is the best. We will be federal but at the same time slowly turn into a parliament but retaining presidential features.

Q: How confident are you in the Senate that federalism will pass?

SP: I am confident of a passage of a con-con resolution or a con-ass resolution so that means we are really open to amending or revising the Constitution on the particular model for as long as it retains the concept of a Senate and then at the end of the day, if it is a constituent assembly, the Senate will vote separately from the House. I am confident that can pass. Those proposals can pass.

Q: Sa palagay ninyo po magiging madugo yung debate?

SP: Sa form, hindi na siguro because we are in search of a unique Philippine model. Ang magiging madugo siguro sa initial debate are those who will be against the adoption of a federal system. It's either we have to convince them to be open to a federal system, or we have to outvote them. Once we have outvoted them, then we have to proceed now to discuss the uniquely Filipino concept of federal form of government.

On whether the proposed states are ready for federalism

SP: I believe so but we can join together those proposed states with questionable economic viability with another state so that the resulting new configuration would be of undeniable economic viability. And remember that there is this mention of an assistance fund, an equalization fund. That is always available even in countries with a federal form of government. Like Australia, they have this system. Kasi it may be economically viable today, but that means twenty years down the road, the regional state will encounter some problems, there must be a mechanism where the central government can extend assistance to a troubled economy.

Q: Ano po yung mga dapat iconsider when we design our own federal system?

SP: The division of the regional states. More or less the reason we are adopting federal form is we believe that the Philippine society is diverse enough such that it is what they call a federal society. So we will divide regional states as much as possible, grouping together those who are not diverse from each other. Those who are more or less similar culturally, religion-wise, with each other, that is the first thing we have to do. We have to be very careful in dividing the regional states. Then we look at economic data, taxation, IRA, budgets of local governments. We add this all up to find out now this so-called economic viability of the proposed regional state. Another contentious issue would be the division of the sovereign powers and the shared powers of the federal government and the state government. What taxing power should be given to one level of sovereignty, and what can be shared. All of these things, but these are not insurmountable. Pwede pa ito pag-usapan, at pwede pong madali na magka-agree po dyan.

Q: Does house Speaker Alvarez have the same sentiment in having our own unique form of government?

SP: Yes. When we say it is automatic, when the president mentioned the French model, the French discovered their own unique system, that means he is pointing us to France, let us discover our very own uniquely Filipino system.

SP: My father has 11 states in mind. I have my own divisions in mind, Speaker Alvarez has his own divisions in mind, so I cannot comment yet on economic viability until we fix the division of the states. But that is one reason, one criterion to use in fixing the final division of the states.

Q: Sir yung equalization of the funds, how does that work? Saan po manggagaling yung pondo? How can the disadvantaged states access that?

SP: From the revenues to be received by the federal government, it should set aside a certain amount every year for that fund, and states which can afford will be required by law to contribute to that fund. So ganoon po yun, but as to to how much percentage, that should be fixed in the Constitution so it is part of the overall agreement. It cannot be changed. So there is that responsibility, the states know that they have that responsibility to help directly or indirectly troubled regional state.

Q: How do we determine if a state is troubled?

SP: We will look at the finances, if let us say, the revenues the state can generate on its own cannot meet its necessary or required expenses, then that means that regional state needs to ask help from the federal state, "Help me get my budget " or "Help augment my budget", so that is now the mechanism. There should be equalization fund or an assistance fund ready, but should there not be such a mechanism in place, by law, the National Assembly or National Legislature can extend assistance.

Q: What should disadvantaged states do to keep up with this form of government?

SP: They should live within their means, they should elect competent officials who know what they are doing, and they should be productive citizens also, not having a sense entitlement that there is a national "Imperial Manila" to help you. Wala na po ngayon iyon. You help yourself.

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