• Duterte eyes Cha-cha through Con-Ass

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    PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has changed his mind and now wants Charter change done quickly by Congress through a Constituent Assembly instead of a costly Constitutional Convention, his top congressional ally bared on Thursday.

    Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said this was the consensus reached by the National Security Council (NSC) Wednesday night during a meeting in Malacañang, which tackled Duterte’s proposal to shift to a federal form of government, among other important issues.

    “At first, the President wanted a Con-Con but on second thought, because it involves a huge sum of money, it was agreed upon that Congress would form a Constituent Assembly to revise the current Constitution after last night’s NSC meeting. It will be cheaper and faster,” Alvarez told members of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) in Makati.

    Under Article XVII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, amendments to the Charter may be proposed by Congress “upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.”

    Alvarez’s timetable calls for a draft of the new Constitution in one year, after which there will be a public information drive.

    “By 2019 polls, we will have it ratified by the people. In 2022, we will elect leaders based on new Constitution. Can we do it? The Duterte administration is committed to do it,” Alvarez said.

    Malacañang however indicated on Thursday the new plan to push for Con-Ass was not yet final.

    “It was discussed as a possibility considering the prohibitive costs should they (Congress) begin the process soon,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

    Abella noted that other huge expenditure items were “looming,” particularly the barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections in October as well as proposed salary increases for the Philippine National Police.

    Stiff price tag

    A nationwide election of Con-Con delegates will cost the government P6 billion to P7 billion, the Speaker said.

    The Con-Con price tag was confirmed by Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, who added that costs will go higher if the nationwide plebiscite that will ratify the new constitution is included.

    “That P6 billion to P7 billion is for the election of delegates alone. That does not include its operations which include fees for their venues, as well as the plebiscite proper,” Bautista said in a separate talk before MAP members.

    Alvarez pointed out that Con-Ass will be cheaper because constitutional amendments will be done by incumbent lawmakers – 24 senators and 292 House members.

    Duterte had wanted to call a Con-Con to make the process more representative.

    Proposed resolutions in Congress seek to bar relatives of lawmakers from running in the
    election for delegates, to prevent politicians from dictating the outcome.
    But a Con-Con faces budget constraints, Alvarez said.

    “And how can you be so sure that the relatives of lawmakers won’t be elected as Con-Con delegate?” Alvarez argued when quizzed about how representative a Con-Ass would be.
    “I understand that there are fears on Con-Ass. But let me tell you. You have nothing to fear. We are committed to doing this for the people,” he added.

    The Speaker was referring to the longstanding aversion to the Con-Ass as a means of amending the Charter, as it could allow sitting lawmakers to propose self-serving amendments such as lifting term limits.

    Unicameral

    Under a federal system envisioned by Alvarez, the Senate will in effect be abolished – the country will have a unicameral parliament and at least 11 independent states (regions) under one federal (central) government.

    Poorer regions will be grouped with wealthier ones to ensure that all states have enough resources.

    Caraga region will be merged with the Davao region, for example. Mindanao will have three independent states: Eastern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and the Bangsamoro.

    Visayas will have two independent states: Eastern and Western Visayas. The eastern Samar and Leyte provinces will be grouped with Cebu, Bohol and Negros provinces. Panay island, Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon in the west will all be under one state.

    Luzon will have the State of Bicol, the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Northern Luzon and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

    The President will remain head of state, and the federal government will retain exclusive jurisdiction over foreign affairs, national defense, the police and monetary policy.

    “Opportunities now are confined in Manila. Under a federal government, states can draft their own economic policies, such as implement an open trade system like Hong Kong and Macau, impose their own tax laws … manage their own resources,” Alvarez explained.

    “This will create opportunities. If there are more opportunities within regions, I don’t see why poverty won’t be addressed,” he said.

    Under a unitary government, provinces have to beg for their share of resources from Manila, he claimed.

    “This system has stunted development,” Alvarez said.

    But for Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, Alvarez’s timeline is not feasible and there is no support for Charter change.

    “I do not think there’s enough support in the Senate for the amendment for federalism,” Roque, an opposition lawmaker, said in a text message.

    “Even if the Senate goes along, I think people will reject the amendment since there is no popular clamor for it,” Roque added.

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    7 Comments

    1. To allow con-ass as a mode to rewrite our constitution is like allowing robbers to enter your house and steal everything inside. Do you like opening your house to robbers and thieves? If you don’t, reject CON-ASS!

    2. Allen Llamar on

      If this is the answer to our problem, then count me in. Most federal forms of government are really doing well (e.g. Canada, Malaysia, etc.) than central form of government .

      My place eastern Visayan are really poor, if ever anyone wants to visit the place will think that our place are the real third world compare to Luzon provinces who are progressive because of their industrialization.

    3. Danny Cascolan on

      XBakit ano ang justification nila duterte at mindanao solons at LP allies taking the steps to overthrow the 1987 Philippine Constitution?? At a time na questionable kung defacto existence ang authority nila sa Gobyerno? Questionable din ang kanilang integrity, intelligence at Loyalty to our One nation-state One Unitary Archipelagic Country!

      No to chacha. Its unjustifiable, why not take it to public and social media debate and research, these zombie herding by doubtful representatives and gerrymandering representations got to stop.

      – Danny Cascolan

    4. Let us ask President Rody to change his mind again and insist on a Con-con, not a Con-Ass. Remind him that the Corazon Aquino Constitution is just worth just like a manure. The Cory 1987 Constitution is the reason why the Filipino have suffered more than before.

    5. It is ridiculous for the President and his supporters in Congress to waste their time and taxpayer money on a useless Federal concept. In fact Duterte and his success is a good example on why local leadership and national leadership on bringing about change. I agree we need to change the economic provisions and allow foreigners to come with their capital and expertise. But changing constitution now is not going to change the HABITS of corrupt politicians and government workers

    6. Si. Mr. Roque naman, nag nega na naman. WALA DAW CLAMOR FOR FOR FEDERALISM? Kasi di educated ang mga mamayan. Let’s all the citizens be educated of its benefits. Let’s do a petition ngayon pa lang! Ang sinuman na mag mag negate na politico na naka upo kahit kita na ang mamamayan ang panalo, I pa impeach na. Panahon na ng pagbabago. It’s natin ang kalagayan ng bawat isa. Lalo na ang mga mahihirap nating kababayan. I taas muli natin ang Pagkalinga sa mga nasa “laylayan” ng lipunan.

    7. Go for it then. Let’s not wait. Duterte should be able to retain his presidency or run for prime minister under federalism.