Con-ass plenary debates to follow death penalty bill
The House of Representatives is set to start plenary debates on revising the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-ass) starting May this year.
This after the House constitutional amendments committee endorsed its committee report to the rules committee in order for the issue to be calendared on the floor for plenary debate, according to the charter change committee chairperson Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado.
The House is tackling Charter change following a call of President Rodrigo Duterte for Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution to pave the way for changing the form of government from unitary to federal parliamentary.
Mercado said because the plenary debates on death penalty are ongoing, the committee is looking at endorsing the concurrent resolution for plenary debates in May, after Congress resumes from its break from March 18 to May 1.
The session is set to resume on May 2. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had said the bill restoring death penalty is targeted to be passed by May.
“With the present business we’re tackling now, I believe it can be dispatched when we come in after the recess,” Mercado said during the “Ugnayan sa Batasan” forum at the House of Representatives.
“It is our hope Congress can give priority in our business when we open our session come May this year,” he added.
Mercado clarified that the plenary debates this May would tackle the mode of revising the Charter—constituent assembly, wherein Congress will convene in an assembly—and not the amendments in the 1987 Constitution.
Now that the concurrent resolution on Con-ass is up for plenary debates this May, the lower House is set to conduct information campaign on the pros and cons of federalism, the primary purpose of amending the Charter, Mercado said.
Mercado said the information campaign would be held in Tacloban, Dagupan, Davao and Bacolod cities.
“We want already to inform the people of what’s federalism, of what are the federal states, what will be the working benefits and disadvantages,” Mercado said.
Mercado said he hopes the House leadership would be open to allow Congress to vote separately on the Charter amendments, the main issue that stalled the deliberations on the Con-ass.
The 24-member Senate will be at a disadvantage compared to the 290-strong House of Representatives if both Houses of Congress will be voting jointly.
The committee had finished its committee report on charter change after it approved the concurrent resolution calling on Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
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.
Section 1 also provides for a constitutional convention where delegates will be elected by the public to propose amendments.
Congress is looking at taking into its own hands amending the Charter with the help of a Constitutional Commission, the members of which is set to be appointed by President Duterte.
Con-Con, Congress is told, would cost a whopping P8.1 billion.
Meanwhile, 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.”
Charter change has been criticized as a move to extend the term limits of public officials, among other amendments that would be self-serving to politicians. RAM
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