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Philippines eyes Canada model of federal, parliamentary government

Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila P. Garcia accompanied Deputy Cabinet Secretary Peter Tiu

Laviña to Parliament Hill in Ottawa for a series of meetings with senior members of the Senate and the

House of Commons of Canada's Parliament.

They exchanged brief pleasantries with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was attending the

session of the House of Commons of Canada's parliament.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a recent visitor to Manila for the APEC Economic Leaders Summit

hosted by the Philippines late last year.

In a meeting hosted by Deputy Speaker Bruce Stanton, MP, Laviña expressed the interest of the

Philippine Government to learn from Canada's experiences in its federal system of government and

parliamentary form of democratic governance.

Stanton conveyed the willingness of Canada to engage Philippine officials and parliamentarians in a

discussion on these issues.

A lively and fruitful discussion on Philippine-Canadian relations subsequently took place with Stanton

who was joined by Filipino-Canadian Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr., Senator Don Meredith; Harold

Albrecht, MP; Kevin Lamoureux, MP; Larry Maguire, MP; Dean Allison, MP; and Robert Sopuck, MP.

Most of the Canadian parliamentarians in attendance had significant numbers of Filipino-Canadians

residing in their respective parliamentary districts.

In a separate meeting with Anthony Housefather, MP, whose parliamentary district in Montreal is home

to many Filipino-Canadians in Quebec, Laviña shared the Philippine government's timetable of adopting

constitutional changes, which would usher the adoption of a federal system of government for the

Philippines before the end of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The parliamentary visit affirmed the shared interest of Philippine and Canadian senior officials to

strengthen the vibrant people-to- people relationship enjoyed by their nationals and a commitment by

the two governments to pursue mutually beneficial endeavors.

Laviña and Garcia were accompanied in their meetings by Philippine diplomats Francisco Noel

Fernandez III and Eric Gerardo Tamayo.

In the Philippines, the Senate is expected in 2017 to take up proposals for a shift to a federal form of

government.

Senators are heeding Duterte’s call for speedier action on proposals to amend the Constitution to pave

the way for a federal form of government, but will oppose any attempt to abolish the Senate.

Duterte has said that he is willing to step down from office as soon as the federal form of government is

in place. He said such a form of government would allow regions to grow faster.

“I give you my word, if the framework is already there, I will resign to give way to the new president,”

Duterte said.

Under a constituent assembly, both the Senate and the House of Representatives convene as one body

to write amendments to the Constitution. This mode is cheaper and is more convenient for proposing

amendments.

On the other hand, a constitutional convention is composed of elected delegates representing

congressional districts and various sectors who will convene as a separate body to write the

amendments.

A constitutional convention is expected to cost billions and its life will depend on how long the delegates

will take to finish their work. Supporters, however, believe the con-con is less susceptible to influence by

political parties.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III is also pushing for the federal system but has vowed to defend

the chamber from moves to have it abolished.

Pimentel stressed the Senate would remain a “political firmament” even in a federal Philippines.

“I assure you that although I am very happy to be remembered as the Centennial Senate President, I do

not want to be remembered as the last Senate President,” Pimentel said in a speech at the 100th

anniversary celebration of the Senate in October.