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The timeline for the proposed shift is tight. The Duterte administration envisions changing the country’s constitution before the midterm elections in May 2019 when the new Constitution would be ratified by plebiscite to provide the framework, structures, processes and timeline for a Federal Philippines. A consultative commission has been appointed by President Duterte to review the current Constitution and to recommend changes.

Two resolutions, no. 8 and no. 9, are pending in the House of Representatives that call for the House and Senate to convene as a constituent assembly to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. These resolutions propose detailed changes to the current Constitution. The PDP-LABAN Federalism Institute has likewise circulated a draft constitution. All proposals thus far include a shift to a federal system.

With concrete proposals out in the open, there is a great need to deepen understanding and analysis of the proposals in the light of the Philippine context and lessons from elsewhere. In the current polarized political environment, there is also a need to provide space for deeper dialogue around substance and process issues related to the charter change. IAG and IDEA will conduct six academic and non-partisan learning sessions each in the House and Senate (12 total) and a national forum in the end to bring together the House and the Senate with key stakeholders to present and discuss the findings from the learning sessions. A final option paper will be prepared on the basis of this national forum.

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The learning sessions will:

a) Provide detailed information on best practices in changing Constitutions, modes, processes and structures;

b) Examine details of submitted charter change proposals in the Philippines and global context;

c) Provide a safe arena for impassioned, informed and open discussions of the issues around charter change and federalism;

d) Build a network of legislators and technical staff who will champion constitutionalism and the need for an informed citizenry in the Philippine charter change process.

In addition to the sessions and the intended goals, concrete outputs of the sessions will include seven thematic option papers providing comparative practice and normative frameworks as well as reflecting session discussions on chosen constitutional topics related to the charter change process in the Philippines.