House Speaker plans charter 'overhaul' in 2017

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2016 01:57 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2016 09:51 PM

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is eyeing charter change next year, and the new charter may include a bill of duties in addition to a bill of rights for citizens.

Alvarez said that aside from overhauling the constitution, he wants the new charter to have a bill of duties in addition to bill of rights for citizens.

"The Bill of Rights is there. But what I see is another chapter which the Aquino Constitution omitted in the Marcos Constitution, that is the bill of duties. Tiinanggal nila ang bill of duties. Kaya tayo ngayon nagkakaganito puro tayo rights," Alvarez said.

Speaking at a meeting of the Philippine Constitutional Association Monday night, Alvarez revealed he has submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte his proposed executive order for the creation of a constitutional commission.

The proposal includes providing expert opinion to the constituent assembly that will revise the charter.

"I forwarded the draft of the Executive Order to the Office of the President creating the Constitutional Commission. Hopefully the Executive Order will be signed this September," he said.

Alvarez said he is hoping Duterte will soon appoint commissioners so "by October the Constitutional Commission will start their work to draft the revised Charter."

"Perhaps in six-month’s time we also, if we are able to finish the 2017 national budget, we can already convene both Houses of Congress into a Constituent Assembly where the draft will be presented by the members of the Constitutional Commission for further deliberations and debate," said Alvarez.

If everything goes according to plan, Alvarez said the draft revisions can be made ready for voter ratification by the midterm election of 2019.

"So if we can make the final revised Charter by 2017, perhaps by 2018 we can already start the information drive and education up to the last barangay on what is in that draft Constitution. By midterm elections I hope that we would be able to present to the people for ratification together with the elections of the new officials of the government," he added.

Alvarez said the goal is to make Duterte's remaining three years a "transitory government."

"If it will be approved by the people (new Charter)--will be a transitory government. So, by 2022 we will be electing our new officials under the new Charter," said Alvarez.

Alvarez explained that his planned con-com is merely advisory and it is the assembly that will revise the charter.

"We will be revising the Constitution based on the second mode which is through constituent assembly, All the others---the creation of a Constitutional commission, asking the commission to draft the Constitution--is about technical assistance that will be given to the Constituent Assembly," said Alvarez.

COMPLETE OVERHAUL?

Alvarez explained that the con-ass will be overhauling the 1987 charter.

"It is a revision, babaguhin po lahat [We will change everything.] We will entirely overhaul the Constitution," Alvarez said.

He noted that he "personally suggested" the creation of the Constitutional Commission, "composed of a very small group." Members may include experts such as former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Justice Lolong Lazaro.

"[These people] we can trust and they have enough experience kung papaano ayusin ang ating sistema. Kasi if we elect the members of the Constitutional Convention, we will not be sure if the people will be electing the right delegates. So ito pong Constitutional Commission masisiguro po natin na ang ating Presidente na kilala niya ang mga taong ilalagay sa commission," he said.

The commission is envisioned to work for 6 months.

Alvarez said they are still keen on a federal-parliamentary form of government, with a President directly elected by the people.

"We will go back to the two party system para wala na pong papalit-palit," he added.

Alvarez hopes the Senate can agree to the amendments even if it could affect their positions.

"There is always a way of navigating it. I still trust on the patriotism of the members of Congress; I think we can do it. And kung takot ang Senado na ma-abolish payag naman kami na ang House of Representatives ang ma-abolish. We just have to increase the membership (laughter), hindi po ba? Pwedeng unicameral, yung Senate ang maiiwan. But we would elect the senators by district. Kung ano yung congressional districts, yun na rin yung senador."