Preparations for federal shift to keep Congress busy next year
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said the second regular session in the House of Representatives will be busy as the leadership plans to convene Congress in an assembly to pave the way for a shift from unitary to a federal form of government next year.
In a radio interview with dzMM, Alvarez said he wanted the 17th Congress to convene itself in a constituent assembly (con-ass) in January or February next year, when the House and the Senate in a joint session may propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Aside from tackling Charter change matters, Alvarez said Congress at the same time would be holding its usual second regular session.
“Talagang maraming trabaho itong darating na taon,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he has talked with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III about the plan to convene both Houses of Congress, when Congress can appoint members of the Constitutional Commission (Con-Com) that would aid lawmakers to revise the Charter.
Alvarez initially wanted President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint the members of the ConCom, but Duterte has so far only issued an executive order creating the ConCom which would aid Congress to propose amendments to the charter.
“Nag-usap kami ni Senate President kahapon, na puwede na naming i-convene yung Congress dito, Constituent Assembly, at saka kami na yung magtatalaga noong Constitutional Commission para magiging technical working group, para pag-aralan at gawin yung draft yung revised Constitution kung saan pinapalitan natin yung sistema ng goberyno to federal form of government,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said the draft of the revised Charter would then be deliberated on the plenary by Congress, which under the present Constitution can revise the Charter in a three-fourths vote.
The Constitution however is silent whether or not Congress would vote jointly or separately.
Alvarez said the revised Charter would then be ratified in a plebiscite after a massive information drive to inform the public about the new federal form of government.
“Pagkatapos niyan, pag tapos yung draft, pagdedebatehan ng Constituent Assembly at pagkatapos noon kung ma-approve na sabay yung massive information drive upang sa ganoon ay maintindihan ng bawat mamamayang Pilipino kung ano yung revised Constitution na isasalang natin sa plebesito,” Alvarez said.
The ball is rolling for Charter change in the lower House, especially after the House constitutional amendments committee passed a concurrent resolution calling on Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Alvarez, meanwhile, said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the passage of which was derailed in the previous Congress due to the involvement of the beneficiary Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a botched anti-terrorism operation, may face easy sailing in the current Congress if it does not contain unconstitutional provisions.
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission has turned over the new draft of the BBL to the President, who would in turn endorse the bill to the Senate and the lower House.
Alvarez said the BBL may be passed on final reading before the Christmas break, at the time the lower House is also expected to ratify the proposed 2018 budget.
“Itong sa BBL titingnan namin hindi ko pa nababasa yung ano yung draft pero kung wala namang problema sa ating Saligang-Batas mabilis lang ito dito sa House of Representatives,” Alvarez said.
“Bago mag-Pasko tapos namin ito. Isasabay na po sa ano yung budget deliberation,” he added.
President Duterte, whose political promises include federalism, said during his 2016 presidential campaign that the shift to federalism may be an alternative to the Bangsamoro basic law, which seeks to put up a more autonomous Bangsamoro region.
The passage of the BBL, a centerpiece legislation during the Aquino administration and a result of the peace talks between government and MILF, was derailed during the 16th Congress due to lack of quorum, in an apparent loss of confidence on the MILF whose fighters were involved in the botched Mamasapano operation that killed 44 Special Action Force cops./ac
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