MANILA - Several senators on Friday said amending the constitution just to heed President Rodrigo Duterte's suggestion to change the party-list law to combat communist insurgency might be too much, noting the policy could be altered without tinkering with the 1987 charter.
If the President's wish "is only aimed at" some party-list lawmakers for allegedly acting as legal and political fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, then "they should be a little bit more creative in accomplishing that objective without opening the floodgate to possibly tinker with the Constitution in its entirety," Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a text message.
"Taking the charter change route might be a bit too big a bite to take," he said.
"When we open the valve to amend the Constitution, especially via a Constituent Assembly, nobody, not even the highest officials of the three branches of government can choose, much less assure which provisions may be amended or not," he said.
While "there’s a lot of room for improvement" for the country's party-list system, it has "reinforced a culture of accountability and provided another layer of checks and balances in our government," said Sen. Joel Villanueva, who first served as Citizens' Battle Against Corruption Party-list representative before being elected to the Senate.
"Other than the fact that Charter change will be a hard sell especially before the 2022 elections, the party-list system will have to be judged by its merits because I've personally seen how the system has allowed the poor and underrepresented participate in decision-making," he told reporters in a text message.
Villanueva's father - Bro. Eddie Villanueva - is the current representative of CIBAC party-list.
"Amending the Constitution needs the full attention of everyone especially all lawmakers— attention and time that we lack right now for other things aside from top priorities such as the vaccination program and economic revival," Villanueva said.
"I hope that talks on amending the Constitution would not be a distraction to what’s really important right now," he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said that Senators Ronald Dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino filed a resolution to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the party-list system and economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution after a meeting with the President in Malacañang.
Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima criticized the administration and its congressional allies for coming up with a "costly" solution to ease economic restrictions in the country.
"Bilyon-bilyong piso ang gagastusin para pag-aralan, isulong sa Kongreso, at magsagawa ng plebisito para amyendahan ang ating Konstitusyon. Sino ang magbabayad niyan, sila ba?!" De Lima said in a separate statement.
(We have to spend billions to study it, hear it in Congress and hold a plebiscite to amend the constitution. Who will pay for that? Is it them?)
"Kahit anong ayos ang gawin nila sa Konstitusyon natin, 'pag corrupt pa rin ang gobyerno, mabagal ang serbisyo, at sandamakmak ang walang habas na patayan, patuloy pa rin na babagsak ang ating ekonomiya," she said.
(Whatever changes we place in the Constitution, if the government is corrupt, service is slow, and killings abound, our economy will continue to fail.)
The Senate minority bloc earlier said that they would oppose moves to amend the Constitution once it is raised in the chamber in the coming weeks.