MANILA – Returning Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero will bat for full local government autonomy, saying it needs to be addressed first before a shift to a federalism is tackled.
In an interview with a news channel on Monday, Escudero said he will initiate strengthening the Local Government Code during the 19th Congress.
He said the national government interferes too much with matters that should be dealt with by local governments alone.
"Mas alam namin kung ano ang kailangan gawin sa aming mga lugar kumpara sa kanila (We know better what needs to be done compared to them)," he said in an interview with ANC.
The outgoing Sorsogon governor said local autonomy should be established first before discussing federalism.
"That's jumping way, way ahead. Our closest experiment to federalism is the Cordillera Administrative Region and BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). Cordillera hasn't been implemented yet. It lost in two or three plebiscites. BARMM up to last term, we were still trying to perfect it," Escudero said.
He said it will take a lot of work before local autonomy is achieved.
“A lot of pencil-pushing, a lot of studies, a lot of backroom computations before a proposal, I think, will be presented in regard to federalizing the entire country," Escudero added.
Based on the list announced by presumptive Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Escudero will chair the Committee on Justice.
Federalism will be handled by the Committee on Constitutional Amendments which is expected to be headed by neophyte and polls topnotcher Senator Robin Padilla.
Escudero and Zubiri defended Padilla against critics questioning his capability to chair the committee, saying senators should be judged by their performance.
“A senator can chair any committee. There is no special qualification to chair a specific committee. It rests solely on the decision via election made by a majority of the senators on the floor,” he said.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Zubiri questioned “mainstream media” for highlighting Padilla's capacity to handle the committee.
"Nung interview nila sa akin ang sabi ko 'kaya niya ‘yan (During their interview with me, I said 'he can do it). Let's give him the benefit of the doubt as naghahanda naman siya (he is preparing). Ang problema ay hindi nila sinama ‘yan sa mga sinabi ko (The problem is they did not include it in what I have said), as usual out of context na naman (again)," Zubiri said.
Zubiri said there is nothing in the Senate rules that state it should be a lawyer handling a certain committee, citing Senator Grace Poe who is not a lawyer but once handled the Blue Ribbon Committee and did well.
Zubiri and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon advised Padilla to study further.
Padilla had tapped former Presidential Legal Adviser, Salvador Panelo, to be his legislative consultant and mentor to push for federalism and charter change. (PNA)