Lawmakers divided on manner of amending Constitution
admin • December 27, 2017 • 4516
MANILA, Philippines — It was on the 7th of December in 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) that creates the 25-member constitutional commission.
The members of the commission are tasked to craft the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
One year has already passed since the President issued the said EO, but until now, Malacañang has yet to release the names of the supposed members of the commission.
Despite this, the lawmakers in the House of Representatives continue to debate on the plenary regarding the proposed charter change through a constituent assembly.
According to Deputy House Minority Leader and member of the Committee on Rules Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr., the Senate seems to be no longer keen on discussing the proposed constitutional amendment.
“We have to determine first whether Senate is amenable to convene a constituent assembly because now, with their body language, it seems they are no longer keen,” said Garbin.
The two chambers of Congress are still divided on the manner in which to amend the constitution that would pave way for the President’s proposal to shift the form of government to federalism.
Even the manner of voting of lawmakers in case they can convene in a constitutional assembly remains an issue for the solons and senators.
“Because the Senate will not agree to vote jointly, it is voting separately,” said the deputy minority leader.
Before the Senate went on a session break, Senate President Aquilino Koko Pimentel said it would be better if the executive department would release its proposed amendment in order for the two congressional houses to begin discussing the charter change.
Pimentel also noted the Senate will find a way to discuss the proposed constitutional amendment even though the Lower House is pushing through with bringing the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the higher chamber of Congress.
The House of Representatives and the Senate also targets to convene next year to begin the deliberations on the proposed amendment of the 1987 Constitution. — Nel Maribojoc | UNTV News & Rescue
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes that President Rodrigo Duterte has already laid the proposed Charter change to rest when he left it out of his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Drilon said the president’s silence on federalism indicates that charter change is not a priority of the Duterte administration anymore.
“What’s more telling in the President’s speech is not what he said but what he did not say. That speaks volumes. For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-cha’s ‘final resting place,'” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism and charter change since he came to power in 2016. But during his media interview after the SONA on Monday night, the president said federalism and the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution may not happen during his term.
House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano earlier said he would push to extend the term of office of lawmakers.
But based on the chief executive’s statement, Drilon said those who have plans to revive Charter change in the 18th Congress “should better think twice.”
“It will be an exercise in futility,” he said.
Meanwhile, the senator also expressed support to some of Duterte’s “wish-list” to Congress, except for his call to reimpose the death penalty in the country.
“We do not agree that death penalty is the solution to our illegal drugs and corruption problems. Death penalty is anti-poor,” Drilon said, adding that what needs to be done is strengthen the country’s justice system which he describes as “weak,” and “very prone to error.”
“We may not always see eye to eye with the President on certain issues, but in terms of legislation that will benefit the country, we are always ready to support him,” he further said.
The lawmaker said he is supporting Duterte’s proposed salary standardization law, the increase in teacher’s salary and the creation of a water department.
He said two of his pet bills call for the increase in the salary of teachers and the creation of the Philippine Water Commission to manage and regulate the country’s water resources.
Drilon also said they are also ready to examine all the other measures stated in the SONA.
“We are willing to listen and take a look at the proposals on the proposed tax reform law, the Land Use Act and the creation of the disaster management department,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte made no mention of federalism and charter change in his fourth State of the Nation Address on July 22 (Monday).
Since 2016, Duterte has been pushing Congress to pass the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution and the shift to federalism government. But in his 2019 SONA, he skipped these issues when he addressed lawmakers of the 18th Congress.
In a media interview after his speech, Duterte explained it was not the proper time to tackle the issue. He also said that the shift to a federal form of government could be up for the next president to complete.
“Federalism is good but there are certain things that need to be very clear. It devolves a lot to the local government. It’s something that the President, not I… I suppose it could come after me,” he said.
The president further said that the federal system needs to have a strong president to put the country together.
“With regard to federal, it’s a very loose structure. One has a lot of power locally. So, the president will have to have it until such time that we have perfected it. There has to be a strong president with the same powers now,” he said.
“I’m out of it because I think it will pass beyond my time,” he added.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism ever since he became president three years ago.
It was among his many campaign promises, believing the shift would bring lasting peace and prosperity in the country particularly in Mindanao.
When prodded, the chief executive said he is still pushing for federalism but its discussion is “better left in conferences that are not allowed to be open to the public.”
He added that he preferred a one-time overhaul of the Constitution, rather than amending it by provision.
Some senators are still not sold on the idea of instilling changes in the 1987 Constitution in the 18th Congress.
This, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s manifestations of pursuing the charter change.
Senator Franklin Drilon said it is still uncertain as to how senators will vote on the proposed constitutional amendment.
Drilon said, “(It is) difficult to predict at this time how the senators will vote. Senate prides itself as independent of Malacañang.”
“Plus, I sense that a number of my colleagues have a “moist eye” on the Presidency in 2022, and may not support an amendment which may lead to a shift to federalism,” he added.
Liberal Party president, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who held the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, meanwhile, said the fate of the charter change will depend on composition of the Senate.
“That all depends on the majority. We will see how it goes given the new composition of the Senate,” Pangilinan said.
Senator Ralph Recto, on the other hand, said he still wants to have the cha-cha proposal scrutinized.
“We’ll have to take a look at details of the cha-cha proposal,” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, believes that majority of the senators have not wavered in their stance regarding the charter change.
“It’s a little more complicated than what the President and the House want. Why? We are simply back to the same question, which is to clarify the ambiguity of the provision in the Constitution that deals with the manner of voting by Congress constituting itself into a constituent assembly,” Lacson said.
He further said, “Again, in doing so, we are faced with a chicken and egg situation. If it’s via ConCom, do we have enough time to accomplish it before the end of his term?”
Neophyte senator Francis Tolentino, however, believes that the passage of the proposed change in the form of government can still happen during President Duterte’s term.
“Tapos na yung preparatory work ng ConCom. Yung ginawa ni former Justice Puno [The preparatory work in ConCom is finished. What former Justice Puno did], it was commissioned by the executive branch. May napadala na silang report at nasa infancy stage na yung kauna unahang version nito yung sa Bangsamoro. Hindi pa siguro huli ang lahat [They were able to send their report and the very first version of it – the Bangsamor- is already at the infancy stage. Maybe it’s not yet too late,” Tolentino said.
The proposed charter change was able to slightly move in the Lower House during the 17th Congress.
It was, however, stalled in the Senate until the Congress adjourned. (with reports from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf
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