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Militants oppose Con-Ass, warn of dynasties’ vested interests

/ 05:04 PM July 29, 2016
House of Representatives inquirer

House of Representatives. Karen Boncocan/ INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

Militants opposed the proposal to amend the Constitution through a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) that would give way to a shift from unitary to the federal form of government, warning of political clans risking the country’s stake for vested interests.

In a statement on Friday, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said they opposed the proposal of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez for “Con-Ass,” whereby Congress convenes to propose amendments to the Constitution.

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Alvarez said the Con-Ass is the preferred cheaper method of President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter found that the more democratic method, the Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) where delegates would be elected to amend the charter, would cost around P6 to P7 billion.

READ: It’s Con-ass, not Con-con

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The Makabayan bloc urged Alvarez to reconsider the move because the Charter change process may be subverted by “vested and self-serving interests” of political clans, which dominate Congress.

“We, Makabayan bloc in the House of Representative, express our objection to the proposed Constituent Assembly. Con-Ass will not be acceptable to the people as they perceive Congress to be dominated by political dynasties and fear that vested and self-serving interests would inevitably influence proposed changes to the Constitution,” the militant bloc said.

The bloc also said it would oppose moves by political families to try to ease the restrictive provisions against foreign ownership, the anti-political dynasty clause and the term limits of elected officials.

“Makabayan will strongly oppose any effort to revise the Constitution that will do away with its protectionist economic provisions, remove the anti-dynasty clause, and lift term limits of elected officials,” it said.

The anti-political dynasty provision of the  Constitution has yet to be implemented without the required enabling anti-political dynasty law.

Makabayan said it would only support Charter change if it would result in alleviating the plight of the poor and equitably distribute the country’s wealth among the marginalized through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.

“We thus urge Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to reconsider his stance favoring Constituent Assembly as the mode for amending the Constitution. Makabayan is open to charter change if it will empower the poor, the oppressed and national minorities, enshrine national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform, and promote equitable distribution of wealth, through a mode acceptable to the people—but certainly not through Constituent Assembly,” the bloc said.

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The bloc is composed of militant representatives from the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Act Teachers and Anakpawis.

On the other hand, the militant umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) expressed fears that lawmakers with corporate interests may move to ease the foreign ownership restrictions of the Constitution to open the country to foreign economic interests.

“Our greatest concern is that lawmakers who are known to represent the interests of big business, local and foreign, can easily move to amend protectionist provisions of the economy and open the country to greater foreign economic plunder,” Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo said in a statement.

“By removing restrictions on foreign ownership of land, utilities, schools and mass media, the entire country would be at the mercy of foreign capital. We raise this concern because the economic team of the administration previously announced it was in favor of further removing restrictions on foreign investments and foreign ownership,” she added.

Araullo also expressed concern about members of political clans who may want to remove the term limits in the Charter.

“We also warn lawmakers against any attempt to change the term limits for elected officials as this would be a self-serving move that would make worse the elite-dominated and dynastic political system,” Araullo said.

The Bayan chairperson said the Con-Ass may be cheaper than Con-Con but the Con-Ass would be cheaper and faster “only for vested economic and political interests.”

“The people would eventually be on the losing end. The losses would be far greater than the amount being projected if the government would not do a Constituent Assembly,” Araullo said.

In a separate statement, minority bloc member Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman warned that the installation of a cooperative minority bloc led by known Duterte ally Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez fits into the orchestrated scheme to railroad the amendment of the Constitution in Congress.

READ: House divided: Two solons battle to become leader of losers

Lagman belonged to what they called the “genuine” minority bloc that questioned the move of the Suarez-led bloc to change the House rules allowing minority members to elect their leader, instead of the tradition of making the second placer in the speakership race the minority leader.

If tradition were allowed, it would have been Lagman’s Liberal party mate Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. who would be recognized as minority leader. He lost the speakership race with eight votes, followed by Suarez with seven.

Lagman said the majority coalition “lent” some of its members to the minority bloc to give Suarez the winning numbers in the minority elections.

READ: Suarez — Binay ally — elected House minority leader

And now with a minority bloc controlled by the majority, Congress would easily become a rubber stamp in amending the Constitution, Lagman said.

“Only one day after the selection of the majority’s ‘minority leader,’ the leadership of the majority coalition has opted to convert the Congress into a Constituent Assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution, like the shift from unitary/presidential to federal/parliamentary, instead of the original plan to call for a Constitutional Convention to effect Charter change,” Lagman said.

“The numerical ascendancy of the new administration’s allies in both the Senate and the House makes the Congress, acting as a Constituent Assembly, a convenient launching pad for federalism, more than the projected Constitutional Convention which may not be easy to control,” he added.

“The order of the day is inordinate fast-tracking with the hegemony of supermajorities assured,” he said. RAM/rga

READ: The majority’s minority

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TAGS: Con-Ass, Con-Con, Constitutional Assembly, constitutional convention, House of Representatives, Makabayan bloc, President Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez
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