Congress told: Con-ass to revise Charter, but not for federalism
Former Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento has urged the Congress to convene as a constituent assembly (Con-ass) to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
During the constitutional amendments committee hearing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said the 1987 Constitution after almost three decades and five presidencies “now merits amendments.”
“The PPCRV proposes that the amendments be done by Congress sitting as a constituent assembly,” Sarmiento said.
But Sarmiento, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, said the PPCRV had yet to discuss and come up with a position on federalism, the purpose for amending the Charter as supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Should the Constitution be amended to pave the way for federalism, Sarmiento said it should be through a constitutional convention (Con-con), or an election of delegates who would revise the Charter.
“This writer proposes that in the event the PPCRV favors federalism, the mode of changing the Constitution is by revision thru a constitutional convention,” Sarmiento said.
Sarmiento proposes the following amendments to the Charter:
· Reducing the voting age from 18 to 16 years old
· Giving the Commission on Human Rights the power to prosecute
· Removing the quasi-judicial functions of the Commission on Elections so that it can focus on executive and administrative function of supervising elections
· Quota for women representation in Congress
· Providing for educational qualifications for president, vice president, senators and representatives
· Fleshing out the provision on political dynasties
· Inclusion of a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities
· Adding foundlings as citizens of the Philippines
· Adopting a two-round system as an electoral system
· Inclusion of persons with disabilities and senior citizens in local absentee voting
Sarmiento said even the 1787 US Constitution was revised several times and “has proven its resiliency and usefulness.”
The House is tackling Charter change following the call of President Rodrigo Duterte for Congress to convene to propose amendments to the Constitution, particularly to change the form of government from unitary to federal parliamentary.
Under Article 17 of the Constitution, there are three modes of amending the Charter.
Under Section 1, one mode of Charter change is through a Con-ass where Congress upon a vote of three votes of its members may propose amendments. But the Constitution is silent whether or not Congress would vote jointly or separately.
Section 1 also provides for a Con-con where delegates will be elected by the public to propose amendments.
Lastly, under the People’s Initiatives, as stated under Section 2, proposal for constitutional amendments may be instituted by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered votes therein.”
Duterte was asked by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission to aid Congress in crafting a revised Charter.
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