House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Sunday denied allegations that Charter change is being fasttracked by the majority after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez announced that amendments to the Constitution will be made through Constitutional Assembly.
“There’s no ‘inordinate fast-tracking.’ It’s simply practical and plain common sense. A constitutional assembly would spend no more than P2 billion, while a Constitutional Convention, from P6 to P7 billion, and that figure is only for the election of delegates,” Fariñas said in a statement.
“The salaries of the delegates, the complete personnel of the Convention, and the rental for the venue of the Convention would cost at least ten times more than the election costs. Congress can earmark the estimated billions to be spent for a two-year Con-con to other productive uses, such as education and health, or perhaps even mitigation of traffic congestion in Metro Manila,” he pointed out.
He issued the statement after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman alleged that the majority in Congress wanted to rush the shift to a federal system from a unitary-presidential form of government.
The Constitution provides three ways by which it may be revised: through a Con-Ass where Congress convenes to propose amendments; through Con-con whose delegates are elected by the public and directly by the electorate.
Fariñas agreed with Alvarez that the savings derived from choosing Con-Ass instead of Con-Con can be used to increase the salary of the police, military and other law enforcers.
“Apart from the budgetary savings which may be channeled to other uses, the Con-ass can be finished in a year’s time if the members of both houses of Congress will do their work and study what existing provisions need to be amended or revised, or new ones included in a new Charter,” he added.
The lawmaker said that the issue on who will sit as House Minority Leader has nothing to do with the decision to convene a Con-Ass.
“The Charter change initiative seeks to bring about comprehensive reforms in Philippine society. Congressman Lagman speaks out of turn when he insinuates that the Duterte administration has an ulterior motive in seeking Charter change and shifting to federalism. President Duterte has even said he would resign once the federal system has been set up,” Fariñas said.
Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares urged Duterte not to support efforts to scrap the party-list system.
“Genuine pro-people party list groups have considerably contributed to checking abuse and corruption in government. What is needed is to amend the party list law to ensure that seats allotted for the party list system are not taken by fake party list groups from the rich and the powerful,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“I agree with President Rody that the party list has been abused but the solution is to cleanse it instead of scrapping it. Last Congress, we filed HB [House Bill] 4464 seeking to amend the party-list law which basically states that any nominee whose annual income is over and above the annual salary of a district congressman is disqualified from the party list system. The bill also disqualified former elected officials from the president down to congressman, governor and mayor from being a nominee. HB 4464 will immediately weed out a lot of rich and famous party list representatives,” he said.