Lawmakers cross party lines for Charter change

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2016 05:36 PM

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Frank Drilon and Vilma Santos Recto. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Former President and Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has filed House Concurrent Resolution 1 of the Senate and House, calling for a constitutional convention, and House Bill 486 implementing this proposal.

Under the proposal, the constitutional convention will be composed of 12 incumbent senators and 12 incumbent congressmen as well as 24 delegates appointed by the President from various sectors.

The President will promulgate an executive order to determine the composition of the appointive delegates. Any appointee of the President who is also an incumbent official shall be deemed resigned and shall not be qualified to run for public office until the adjournment of the convention.

Within 120 days from its first session, the Con-con will submit the revised Constitution to the president who shall fix the date for the plebiscite within 60 days from submission.

Allies of former President Benigno Aquino III are among the first to propose amendments.

At the Senate, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said a change in the form of government will be the major and most important task of the Constitutional convention (Con-con) being eyed to review the Constitution. Drilon earlier filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1 that calls for a convention to propose amendments to, or revision of, the 1987 Constitution.

Under the RBH No. 1, the delegates to the Convention will be elected on the second Monday of May 2017, in accordance with the provisions of existing elections laws, rules and regulations.

They shall be elected by administrative region based on the number of legislative districts in such region, the resolution said.

In a DZMM interview, Drilon said, "Ngayon ang ibig ko lang bigyan ng diin, yung form of government yun po ay pag-uusapan hindi po sa kung saan man, kundi ang mag-decide niyan ay ang mga delegado sa constitutional convention …sa kampanya ng mga delegado, kanila pong ipapaliwanag sa publiko para saan ba sila, para sa federal o para sa presidential para pagpili ng taumbayan, makikita na nila kung saan patungo yung mga delegado na kanilang hinalal. Yuon po ang isa sa maganda diyan, para malaman na natin kung ano ba talaga ang sa puso ng taumbayan, kaya ang paguusap doon sa Con-con."

Drilon said a Constitutional convention will provide a venue for free expression of ideas as the discussions will not be limited.

ECONOMIC CHANGES

At the Lower House, Drilon's party-mate, Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte, renewed his proposal to amend the Constitution to lift restrictive economic provisions.

"In order to realize the full benefit of inclusive growth, the restrictive economic provisions in the Philippine Constitution, which hamper the flow of foreign capital investments, must be lifted," said Belmonte in filing Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2.

Under Belmonte's proposal, the constitutional amendments will be done by the Senate and the House of Representatives, by a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, each House voting separately, and pursuant to Article XVII of the Constitution, to propose amendments to Articles XII, XIV and XVI of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

Separately, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez proposed to convene the House of Representatives and the Senate into a Constituent Assembly to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution, including the shift to a federal form of government.

In House Joint Resolution No. 2, Benitez said a Constituent Assembly is the most prompt and least expensive mode to amend Charter to change the form of government to federalism, among others.

Benitez said, in the Constituent Assembly he is proposing, "Congress will create a 'Council of Elders' to serve as council of experts to provide inputs to Congress in drafting the revisions to the Constitution. The Council of Elders shall be composed of not less than 10 members from different sectors including but not limited to religious, non-government organizations, urban poor, business, academe, and former justices."

Another proposal comes from Rep. Gwendolyn "Gwen" Garcia (3rd District, Cebu City) who filed House Bill 312 or the proposed "Constitutional Convention Act of 2016," which details the following:

- composition, qualifications, appointment, and election of Constitutional Convention delegates;
- conduct of Con-Con delegates' election, rules and regulations;
- opening session and election of the President of the Con-Con;
- organization of the Con-Con, the rules of procedure, the Con-Con budget;
- parliamentary immunity of Con-Con delegates; and,
- Con-Con appropriations.

House Bill 312 provides the Constitutional convention, referred to as the Convention, shall be composed of 107 delegates, whose individual qualifications shall be the same as those of a Member of the House of Representatives. The election of delegates shall be held on the second Monday of January 2017.

The election of delegates shall be conducted under the Manual System (not the automated) and shall be governed by the provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 or the "Omnibus Election Code, as amended."

The Constitutional Convention shall be convened for its Opening Session on the first Monday of March 2017 at 10 a.m., at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House shall jointly preside at the Opening Session and shall proceed to the election of the President of the Convention.

The sum of P300 million shall be appropriated for the holding of the election of Convention delegates out of any funds in the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and another sum of P500 million for the budget necessary for the operation of the Convention.

ATE VI ON CHA-CHA

Charter change was also discussed by neophyte lawmakers at the sidelines of the executive course on legislation.

Over 40 neophytes comprised the 3rd and final batch of lawmakers, among them, celebrity lawmaker Vilma Santos Recto of Lipa City.

Santos-Recto said she has yet to study the proposal for Charter change and a shift to a federal form of government.

"Saka ko na pag-uusapan yun pag na-prepare ko na, nakapag-aral pa ako, mas mabuti on what to do depende sa sitwasyon natin. Siguro that's the only time pwede ako maglatag ng anything concrete na pwede ko tayuan at ipaglaban. Pero as of now, I'm still trying to learn more," she said .

She added: "Marami pa tayong dapat pag-aralan. It's not that easy. Maski naman sila sinasabi maraming dapat pag-aralan pag pinag-usapan natin ang pederalismo."