2017 budget over Charter change, Alvarez says
Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez on Tuesday said the House of Representatives would be focusing on passing the national budget first before revising the 1987 Constitution.
In an interview after a meeting with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and other senators at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Alvarez said the lower chamber of Congress would focus on amending the Charter by January 2017, or after the House approves the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act by November this year.
“Definitely between now and end of November, unahin ang deliberation ng budget (we would prioritize the deliberation of budget) for 2016. So after that, by January, baka pwede nang pag-usapan both Houses, pwede nang talakayin ang revision ng ating Constitution (perhaps both House could discuss about the revision of our Constitution),” Alvarez said.
Alvarez met with Pimentel and other senators on Tuesday to discuss whether or not Congress would be voting jointly or separately in revising the Constitution under the preferred mode of Charter change, the constituent assembly (Con-ass).
Under Con-ass, Congress would convene and propose amendments to the Charter and approve these in a vote of three-fourths. But the Constitution is silent whether or not Congress would vote jointly as one body or separately.
The leaders of Congress have yet to make a decision, but Alvarez said he was leaning towards the Senate’s interpretation of voting separately.
The House of Representatives is the first to tackle the proposed budget to be submitted by the Department of Budget and Management. It would dedicate exhaustive committee deliberations over the budget of each government agency, before forwarding the budget to the plenary for second and third reading approval.
The budget would then be forwarded to the Senate for its own deliberations, before both Houses of Congress thresh out their versions of the budget in a bicameral conference. The budget would then be signed by the President.
Alvarez said he hopes a constitutional commission would be created by President Rodrigo Duterte to make a draft of the proposed revision of the Constitution while Congress is busy tackling the national budget.
“While the House is busy preparing for the 2017 budget, mayroon nang gumagawa na grupo (a group can prepare and) to make the draft of the new Constitution,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called him up for a draft of an executive order (EO) that the president may issue in creating the constitutional commission.
Alvarez had proposed that the commission be composed of experts on constitutional law—former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., lawyer Reuben Canoy, Dean of San Beda Law School Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, the academe and other sectors of society.
“The executive secretary called me already asking me for a draft of the EO. Last week pa. Mahaba lang. Hanggang ngayon hindi pa tapos ([It was being prepared] since last week. It’s lengthy and we are still working on it),” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he would submit a draft EO within the week. RAM