House deputy speakers favor extending work hours for con-ass
The deputy speakers in the House of Representatives are in favor of extending working hours, even until the weekend, for Congress to discuss amendments in the 1987 Constitution.
During the weekly “Ugnayan sa Batasan” press briefing, Marikina Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu were one in saying that Congress should stay beyond plenary hours to tackle the amendments in the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly (con-ass).
In con-ass, both Houses of Congress convene to propose amendments in the constitution and approve it by three-fourth votes of its members.
Abu said Congress may be organized into committees that would meet Thursday to Saturday to tackle charter change, on top of attending the regular plenary sessions starting 4 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday.
He said the congressional committees may be created based on each Article in the draft constitution to be crafted by a constitutional commission (con-com).
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proposed to President Rodrigo Duterte to create a con-com composed of constitutional experts that would aid Congress in proposing amendments.
“After ma-draft ‘yun, makikita anong Articles nakapaloob dun. Pagkita natin ng Articles, ‘pag kin-onvene na ngayon ang Houses of Representatives at Senate bilang con-ass, mahahati na natin ‘yung mga miyembro into different committees base dun sa Articles na nakalagay sa pinro-pose ng con-com,” Abu said.
(After it’s drafted, we can see its Articles. When we see the Articles, when the House of Representatives and Senate are convened as con-ass, we can divide the members into different committees based on the Articles inside the proposed con-com.)
Abu said through proper time management, Congress may balance its duties between amending the charter and passing pertinent pieces of legislation.
“Pwedeng pag-usapan ito ‘pag araw ng Huwebes at Sabado, committee level, bago dalhin sa plenaryo. Time management lang. Tingin ko, sistema lang ang kailangan diyan,” Abu said.
(We can discuss this on Thursday and Saturday, committee level, before we bring it to the plenary. Time management is needed. I think we just need a system for this.)
Quimbo said Congress may use its time wisely to amend the charter if it extends its work hours by meeting on Thursday and Friday for the committee meetings.
Quimbo urged his colleagues to tell their constituents that they may dedicate their time in attending committee deliberations than visiting their congressional districts.
“Mayroon tayong mga existing committees; nagtatrabaho (ang) Kongreso Lunes hanggang Miyerkules. Wala ngang plenary Thursday and Friday. So it’s a matter of extending hours at pakiusapan natin distrito kung pwede mas bawasan presensiya ng ating mga representante dahil may pangalawang papel na kailangan gampanan,” Quimbo said.
(We have existing committees; Congress works Monday to Wednesday. There’s no plenary on Thursday and Friday. So it’s a matter of extending hours and asking our districts if our representatives can lessen their presence there because they have another role to fulfill.)
Castro said Congress may convene to amend the charter in the evening, while perform its committee meetings to discuss pertinent pieces of legislation in the morning.
“Ang Kongreso, maaaring gumanap sa kaniyang papel bilang con-ass sa gabi, at sa umaga maaari namang silang i-comply ang obligasyon bilang mambabatas. Sa gabi, con-ass; sa umaga, duties bilang lawmakers,” Castro said.
(The Congress can work on the con-ass at night, and then fulfill its obligations as lawmaker in the morning. Con-ass at night; duties as lawmakers in the morning.)
The ball to amend the charter to pave the way for the shift from a unitary to federal form of government may fall on Congress after President Rodrigo Duterte said he preferred con-ass as a cheaper mode of charter change.
But critics warned that political clans and business groups in Congress would use charter change to push for vested interests, such as lifting the term limits and easing the foreign ownership restrictions in the 1987 Constitution.
The minority bloc in Congress is pushing for the second method, or the constitutional convention (con-con), where delegates who would convene to propose amendments are elected by the people.
Duterte turned down con-con because the elections would cost government some P6 to P7 billion.
For his part, Quimbo said delegates in con-con are not any different from the district representatives because history has shown that delegates during the past con-cons were backed by members of political clans.
“Tingnan natin ang mga nakaraang con-con. Lahat ng mga representation, nakatali kung sino ang namamayani, o kung sino ang reigning political family or figures dun sa bawat area,” Quimbo said.
(Let’s look at the past con-con. All the representations were tied to who predominate or those reigning political families or figures in each area.)
“What you’re going to see is a repeat of who is sitting in Congress. Ipupusta ko po na nangyari siya nung 1971 con-con, mangyayari po uli ‘yan ‘pag tayo magkaroon ng eleksyon. Ang tatakbo, kung sino ang kaalyado ng Kongreso (I’d bet that what happened in the 1971 con-con will happen again if we have an elections. Those who will run will be those who are allies of Congress.) Why do we need to repeat Congress?” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said amending the constitution should then be left to the hands of representatives who know best about the concerns of their constituents.
“We have the best representatives now. Bakit tayo hahanap ng iba (Why will we look for others)?” he said. JE
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