DAVAO CITY - President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday he wants the review of the 1987 Constitution finished within the year to give the legislature enough time to act on proposed amendments, a key part of his administration's reform agenda towards a shift to federalism.
This after the President constituted a 19-member consultative body, headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, to review the 31-year-old charter.
"I want it done this year. Just enough time for Congress to act on it. We do not want to hang," Duterte said in Davao City upon his return from a 2-day visit to India.
On Thursday, Malacañang released appointment papers of the consultative body, which includes former magistrates, law professors, members of the academe and former government officials.
Named to the body were former Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Bienvenido Reyes, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., San Beda College Graduate School of Law dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, and political scientists Julio Teehankee and Edmund Tayao, among others.
The Senate and the House leadership have agreed to focus on "substance" and temporarily set aside disputes on whether the two houses of Congress should vote jointly or separately if the legislature were to convene as a constituent assembly to tackle proposed amendments to the organic law.
Lawmakers are eyeing to hold a plebiscite on charter change simultaneously with the May 2019 midterm elections to save funds, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said.
"But if we finish early, we can spend about P6 billion to hold the plebiscite earlier," Pimentel said in an interview earlier this week.
The President said funding for charter change should not be an issue.
"If there's a cost, so be it. It might result in violence, we avoid it. The problem really is procrastination," Duterte said.
Changing the 1987 Constitution has been a priority of the government as shifting to federalism was among Duterte's campaign promises.
The administration is pushing for federalism, saying the unitary form of government has inhibited development in the countryside.