Pimentel hurries Puno body on charter change proposals

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2018 12:16 PM

MANILA - Senators will not "consciously wait" for the output of an experts’ group headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno before pushing for their own changes to the Constitution, Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said.

The 19-man consultative committee, which includes Pimentel’s father and namesake, has 6 months to finish its review. 

It will be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte and later, to Congress where efforts are underway to revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly.

Pimentel said the committee’s proposal would be treated “just like any other reference material.”

"We will not consciously wait, so they should also speed up their proceedings," he said in an interview with ANC’s Early Edition to be aired Wednesday.

"We are all excited to start the review process of the 1987 Constitution. We can no longer wait."

NO OBSTRUCTIONIST

Puno said Tuesday he and other committee members would take their oath on Feb. 13.

He earlier told ABS-CBN News he preferred weekly en banc meetings by members, who would be assigned to different committees concentrating on specific provisions of the charter. 

The committee’s recommendations “can be considered and be used... when Congress proposes actual changes to the Constitution,” Pimentel said.

Minority Sen. Francis Pangilinan heads the committee on constitutional amendments, which is now conducting hearings on proposed changes either through a constitutional convention or constituent assembly.

Pimentel said Pangilinan had assured him that he “would not be an obstructionist” and would “observe a reasonable timetable (and) pace in the hearings.”

“That commitment is good enough for me,” said Pimentel, who was open to a plebiscite before the May 2019 midterm elections.

PLEBISCITE

But he said this stand-alone plebiscite would cost around P8 billion and apply only to “simple amendment” such as changing a paragraph of the constitution.

Since his ruling PDP-Laban party, for instance, was looking at a shift to federalism, he said such a plebiscite would be a “far-fetched Plan B.”

Pimentel said he was open to a constitutional convention, where delegates would be elected, depending on the constitutional changes to be proposed in Congress.

“If the extent of the changes should prove to be too much for Congress to handle and Congress is already distracted with so many other things or workload, then the Constitution points us to 3 ways,” he said, citing the third mode of a people’s initiative. 

“But we try first Congress... to propose amendments to the constitution.”

Puno earlier proposed a “hybrid” con-con where members would be either elected or appointed, presumably to minimize the possibility of political dynasties taking advantage of the process.