No Cha-cha until July 2017 – Speaker

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Congress as a Constituent Assembly or Con-ass won’t start amending the 1987 Constitution until July 2017.
The timetable came about after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte announced that the Constitutional Commission–a body composed of presidential appointees that will draft a new Constitution–will need at least half a year to finish its job and propose a new Charter to Congress.

“I already submitted the draft of the executive order to the Office of the Executive Secretary for the creation of a Constitutional Commission [that]will review, revise and prepare the draft for the revised Constitution. This will be composed of about 25 members who are experts in various fields, and we will give them six months to finish the draft,” Alvarez said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“After six months, it will be submitted to the Constituent Assembly and it will be debated until we come up with a final draft, submit it to the people for ratification,” he added.

The Duterte administration is pushing for a Con-ass to effect Charter change or Cha-cha toward a federal form of government wherein the country will be divided into 11 independent states under a federal government with each state having the authority to craft its laws, as well as manage its resources.

The federal sates, however, would still have to split their income, with the national government getting 25 percent and 75 percent for the the concerned region since the national government will retain its full jurisdiction over foreign affairs, national defense, monetary policy and the police.

Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said the country’s shift to federalism would finally disperse genuine economic and political powers to the countryside.

“Federalism will redistribute the national wealth outside Metro Manila where our natural resources abound. LGUs [local government units]would have more power to manage their funds and resources,” Villafuerte, the vice chairman of the House appropriations panel, said in a statement.

“This set-up will also foster greater competition between and among the local governments and regions as they pursue their respective growth agendas,” he added.

The House constitutional amendments committee agreed to convene Congress as a Constitutional Assembly in October.

A similar initiative is yet to get going in the Senate.

But a source, who is familiar with talks between the two chambers, has informed The Manila Times that the Senate is not keen on proceeding with the matter because the Duterte administration is keen on pushing for Cha-cha with the House and the Senate voting jointly–a scenario that renders the Senate irrelevant since there are only 24 senators as against at least 292 members of the House of Representatives.

The 1987 Constitution does not explicitly state whether the House and the Senate should vote jointly or separately in amending the Constitution.

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