The House constitutional amendments committee has approved a measure pushing ahead with Charter change, with Congress convening as a Constituent Assembly but with members of the House and the Senate voting separately.
Rep. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, Chairman of the House constitutional amendments panel, made the disclosure even as the 1987 Constitution is not clear on whether the House and the Senate should vote separately in amending the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly.
“We hope that the members of the majority will accept this proposed bill amending the Constitution via ConAss. During the period of amendments, the House version will be amended to provide that we will be voting separately,” Mercado told reporters.
“Once we pass the proposed bill on ConAss, then it will be taken up by the Senate. If the Senate approves it, then we will hold a bicameral conference before submitting it to the President for approval. Once it becomes the law, the convening of both Houses [to amend Charter]will commence,” Mercado explained.
President Rodrigo Duterte prefers Cha-cha through a Constituent Assembly instead of a Constitutional Convention, which could cost taxpayers at least P6 billion.
Under the 1987 Constitution, any amendment to, or revision of, the Constitution may be proposed by Congress acting as a Constituent Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of its members.
Joint voting will effectively drown the senators’ votes as there are only 24 senators while the House has at least 293 members. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd has insisted that in the event Congress convenes as a Constituent Assembly, voting on constitutional amendments must be done by the two houses separately.
“We will be on break on March 18, and it is our hope that Congress will give priority on this once we open session once again in May. Exporters, businessmen, are vigorously recommending for the amending of our Constitution, especially its economic provisions. This is ripe for appropriate action,” Mercado said.
He added that lawmakers will mount an intensive information drive on Charter Change in major cities such as Davao and Bacolod to discuss the benefits of a shift to the federal form of government.
The Duterte administration envisions a federal system of government wherein the Philippines will have 11 independent states (regions): the National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog Region, Northern Luzon Region, Bicol Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Easten Samar, Western Samar, Eastern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and Bangsamoro.
In December, Malacañang formed a 25-man consultative committee to review the 1987 Constitution and study the proposal to shift to a federal system of government.