Buhay party-list group Rep. Lito Atienza is hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte may yet change his mind and push for a Constitutional Convention or Con-con as the administration’s desired mode of revising the 1987 Charter toward a federal-parliamentary form of government.
“Several of the President’s allies strongly prefer a Constitutional Convention. We are hoping they can still persuade the President to go for a Constitutional Convention,” Atienza said in a statement.
The congressman, also House senior deputy minority leader, cited Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri as one of the presidential allies advocating Con-con.
Like Atienza, Zubiri is author of a bill calling for a Constitutional Convention.
Zubiri’s bill proposes the election of 86 independent delegates to a Con-con, or one delegate from every province plus five delegates from the National Capital Region (Metro Manila).
The senator also wants an extra 15 delegates to be appointed by the President.
“Malacañang’s allies in Congress who favor a Constitutional Convention are banking on the fact that the President himself originally wanted a Constitutional Convention,” Atienza said.
While still running for office, and even immediately after he was elected, Duterte had repeatedly indicated that he favored a Con-con over a Constituent Assembly or Con-ass.
In a Constitutional Convention, the people will elect representatives who will recommend revisions to the Constitution.
In a Constituent Assembly, Congress itself sits down to put forward amendments to the Constitution.
In both cases, the proposed changes will require final direct approval by the people in a referendum.
“Actually, the President somewhat changed his mind and supported a Constituent Assembly only after other allies in Congress inflated and played up the supposed huge expense required by a Constitutional Convention,” Atienza said.
He dismissed as “canard” the estimated P8 billion cost of a Con-con.
“That is a ridiculously excessive amount obviously pumped up by people around the President who have their own agenda, and who want a Constituent Assembly,” Atienza said.
In previous administrations, attempts to convene Congress into a Con-ass to revise the Constitution met strong public resistance because of misgivings that lawmakers might introduce self-serving amendments, such as removal of restrictions to the number of terms that they and their family members may serve in elective offices.
At present, the 1987 Constitution limits the terms of members of the House of Representatives as well as local government officials to three successive three-year terms.
The Constitution also limits the terms of senators to no more than two successive six-year terms.
Atienza is pushing for constitutional reforms but is strongly opposed to a Constituent Assembly.
“The people are entitled to elect a new set of representatives to propose changes to the Constitution,” he said.
“We in Congress were not specifically selected by the people to tamper with and mess around with the Constitution. We were chosen as district and party-list representatives mainly to pass new laws,” Atienza pointed out.
The House is set to begin plenary debates on a concurrent resolution calling for Congress to convene itself into a Constituent Assembly.