Drilon, Pimentel differ on scope of amendments
CONFLICTING views on how the 29-year-old Constitution should be amended have emerged in Congress as Malacañang on Monday bared that President Rodrigo Duterte preferred to do it through a Constitutional Convention, or Con-Con.
In a news conference, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said changing the Constitution will be among the priority items in the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.
But the amendments, he added, should come from elected delegates, not from Congress, which can also amend the Charter by convening itself as a Constituent Assembly.
“As far as we know, President Duterte favors Con-Con [Constitutional Convention], not Con-Ass [Constituent Assembly]. It’s more consultative right? More representation,” Abella told reporters.
When asked if the President would certify proposed resolutions calling for a Con-Con as urgent, he said, “It’s definitely part of his priorities.”
Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, the President’s choice as the next Speaker, echoed Malacañang’s statement.
“The best mode of revising the 1987 Constitution is through a Constitutional Convention wherein the delegates who will propose revisions are regionally elected for that purpose.
This process will ensure that the people-at-large, from the very outset, will be a part of the changes that will be introduced for the fundamental structure of our society,” Alvarez said in a statement.
Under Alvarez’s proposal, the 1987 Constitution will be amended by a convention composed of regionally elected and appointed delegates.
The President will appoint 20 delegates with the same qualifications as the members of the House of Representatives.
Duterte is a staunch advocate of changing the current unitary and centralized form of government, and he said during the election campaign that nothing short of federalism would bring peace to Mindanao.
Drilon, Pimentel differ
At the Senate, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who had proposed Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 calling for an election of Con-Con delegates by May 2017, said there should be no restrictions on the provisions to be discussed in a convention.
But Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, who is expected to replace Drilon as Senate president at the opening of the 17th Congress, on Monday indicated that the convention could have certain parameters, telling Senate employees during flag-raising ceremonies that the chamber will not be abolished.
“Under [the]Federal-Presidential [system]espoused by my father former Senate president [Aquilino Pimentel Jr.],, there will still be a Philippine Senate, a much larger one. We will be hiring more employees … Each Regional State will also have its own legislative branch which can benefit from the expertise you have developed here in the Senate. You can choose to work therefore in your own region,” Pimentel explained.
“Hence … there is nothing to worry about,” he said.
But Drilon said there should be no limits to the Con-Con, which in principle is vested with “plenary powers” to review the entire Constitution, not only the form of government or even economic provisions barring foreign control of corporations and land.
“When you open the Constitution to amendments, you open up everything,” Drilon told reporters.
Through a Con-Con, he pointed out, voters would be able to elect delegates based on their positions on issues such as federalism or a parliamentary form of government.
Drilon proposes the convention to start work in September 2017 and submit the draft of the new Constitution by May 2020, or two years before Duterte leaves office. There should be a deadline or else the process might “take five years.”
An analyst told The Manila Times that the process of crafting the 1987 Constitution was itself far from ideal, as it was drafted by a commission whose members were all appointed by then-president Corazon Aquino.
“Ideally, we have to have a Con-Con because it is the appropriate process for democracy.
We never had a Constitution that was written by a freely elected body under a free
regime,” University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund Tayao said.
“We had a Con-Con in 1935 with elected delegates but we were under the Americans. We had another Con-Con in 1971 but the declaration of martial law rendered it inutile,” Tayao added.
Drilon said the timing was right to amend the Constitution, noting that the 1935 Constitution was amended after nearly three decades, in 1971.
“With the 1987 Constitution we are now at almost 30 years. Pwede na tayo mag-start [We can start] tomorrow, the time is appropriate,” he added.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA