Charter change cost to hit P15 billion
A lawmaker is furious that the Department of Finance (DOF) is setting aside billions of pesos for changes in the Constitution, instead of addressing the specter of price inflation, which is haunting the Philippines and many other countries all over the world.
“It is infuriating that, while [President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] has said that Cha-cha (Charter change) is not his priority, Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno has committed to fund the implementation of a proposed Con-con (constitutional convention),” ACT Teachers party list Rep. France Castro said in a statement on Thursday.
Castro said that, contrary to the claim of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the Commission on Elections has told lawmakers that it would need an additional P3.827 billion to hold an election for delegates to a constitutional convention alongside the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
Rodriguez, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, initially estimated that it would cost P1.5 billion to hold the elections.
But he also admitted that a convention could also amend political provisions, or even overhaul the Charter, and the most Congress could do would be to “suggest” that the convention stick to revisiting only economic provisions.
Holding the convention itself would cost P5 billion more and another P3 billion for the plebiscite to ratify amendments or revisions of the Charter. The total amount would come to P9.5 billion although the National Economic and Development Authority only estimated P331 million for the exercise mentioned in Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, which the House approved on second reading on Tuesday, February 28.
READ: Costly ‘Cha-cha’ charade
Castro lamented that while the government has rebuffed calls for increased wages and financial aid to impoverished sectors, it could easily commit to funding the proposed hybrid Con-con which would have “P10,000 per diem allowance for Con-con delegates from Nov. 21, 2023, to June 30, 2024, as well as travel allowance and housing.”
She stressed in Filipino, “I hope Congress and Malacañang heed the people because what they need are aid and a wage increase, not Cha-cha.”
For his part, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza maintained that a constituent assembly would be more “practical, expedient and transparent” and could be limited to amending only the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“The substantial cost involved in a Con-con can cost P10 billion to P15 billion. These funds could be better spent on critical socioeconomic programs such as for poverty alleviation, social welfare, education and employment and livelihood generation,” he pointed out, noting that a constituent assembly would come at little or no cost at all.
Daza further said, “The process of choosing the representative-delegates to this Con-con may become another opportunity for divisiveness,” adding, “While I appreciate the good intentions [of Cha-cha], a potentially divisive and costly exercise at this point may do more harm than good.”
While the draft RBH 6, which needs to be approved by the Senate to take effect, calls for a hybrid convention to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution, the enabling measure, House Bill No. 7352, is still being considered as of Wednesday, March 1.