Con-Ass gains traction in House
The House committee on constitutional amendments approved Wednesday a measure calling on Congress to convene itself into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution, defeating the calls for a constitutional convention (Con-con).
Panel members favoring Con-ass voted 32-7, with three abstentions. President Duterte has been the leading proponent to revise the Charter and introduce what he says are critical changes, including a switch to federalism.
This was a defeat for advocates of Con-con, which would involve the election of delegates to frame a new Constitution. Allies of President Duterte earlier pushed for Con-con but changed their minds after learning it would cost the government billions.
The Constitution lists three ways by which changes may be made to the basic law of the land—with Congress acting as a Con-ass, through a Con-con or through a people’s initiative after a petition signed by 12 percent of the electorate.
Under Con-ass, the Senate and the House, acting as one body, will introduce and approve changes to the Constitution by an absolute three-fourths vote subject to a national referendum.
The committee chaired by Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado approved a concurrent resolution of Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia calling for a Con-ass.
A subsequent motion by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas was also approved, directing the secretariat to prepare a committee report to be deliberated by the entire chamber on the plenary floor.
The seven lawmakers who rejected the proposal expressed misgivings about a Con-ass, arguing that a Con-con would be more representative and democratic.
Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao said a Con-con would “allow the citizens to choose directly, and give a more balanced representation across sectors and geographic demarcations.”
‘This idea of arrogating upon ourselves the power to change the Constitution will not sit well with the public. This is total disregard of the public’s will,” said Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza.
He said Charter change should be done by “duly constituted elected constitutionalists, not congressmen who were elected for another purpose.”
Responding to charges that her Con-ass measure did not go through the appropriate process, Garcia said the motion was “definitely not railroaded,” noting that everyone was given a chance to argue for or against it.
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