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Congress to convene for Charter change next year - Alvarez

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The 17th Congress will convene in a constituent assembly (Con-ass) next year to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution for a federal form of government, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said.

In a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, May 16, Alvarez said the ball is in the hands of Malacañang after President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order creating a Constitutional Commission which will aid Congress to propose amendments to the Charter.

Alvarez said Congress would push through with the Con-ass, where both Houses of Congress would vote to propose amendments to the Charter.

But the issue had been stalled over debate whether Congress would vote jointly or separately, a question which was unanswered in the Constitution.

Alvarez said Con-ass would continue next year even without the President’s appointment of the members of the constitutional commission.

“’Pag hindi siya mangyari this year, definitely with or without the commission by next year, uumpisahan na ng Kongreso ‘yan (If it does not happen this year, definitely with or the commission by next year Congress can start on that),” Alvarez said, referring to Con-ass.

Alvarez said he does not mind if Congress would vote separately on the Charter amendments, the main crux that stalled any agreement between both Houses of Congress.

The Senate would be at a disadvantage if both Houses of Congress will vote jointly because the upper chamber would be far outnumbered by the 292-strong lower House.

“Pwede namang voting separately, okay naman. Para sa akin, wala namang problema ‘yan eh (Voting separately is OK for me. There is no problem about that),” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the House would finish first the deliberations on the 2018 budget before it focuses on amending the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for a shift from unitary to a federal form of government.

The lower House originally planned to tackle the concurrent Con-ass resolution this May in the plenary. The resolution has hurdled the committee level and is now up for second reading approval, debate and amendments.

But the concurrent resolution is yet to be fielded to the plenary for second reading debates. The lower House would adjourn for sine die on May 31.

Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairperson of the constitutional amendments committee, earlier said the plenary debate on the concurrent resolution would limit the discussions on the Con-ass mode of Charter change.

The House is tackling Charter change following a call of President Duterte for Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution to pave the way for changing the form of government from unitary to federal parliamentary.

The committee had finished its report on Charter change after it approved the concurrent resolution calling on Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Under Article 17 of the Constitution, there are three modes of amending the Charter.

Under Section 1, one mode of Charter change is through a Con-ass where Congress upon a vote of three votes of its members may propose amendments. It is silent whether or not Congress votes jointly or separately.

Section 1 also provides for a constitutional convention where delegates will be elected by the public to propose amendments.

Congress is looking at taking on its own hands amending the Charter with the help of a Constitutional Commission, the members of which is set to be appointed by President Duterte.

Con-Con, Congress is told, would be too costly at a whopping P8.1 billion.

Meanwhile, under the People’s Initiatives, as stated under Section 2, proposal for constitutional amendments may be instituted by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered votes therein.”

Charter change has been criticized as a move to extend the term limits of public officials, among other amendments that would be self-serving to politicians. – Inquirer.net

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