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Early decision needed on Con-Con or Con-Ass

BETWEEN a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) and a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass), the former appears to be favored by Senate leaders, among them Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, who is expected to be elected the next Senate president.

Drilon and Pimentel have both filed bills seeking a review of the current 1987 Constitution and its amendment via Con-Con. As the Commission on Elections is now preparing for the barangay elections in October, incoming Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in his own bill called for the election of Con-Con delegates at the same time as the barangay officials. This will save considerable expense.

Zubiri’s bill includes provisions that need to be debated and discussed. Among them is the proposal that aside from 81 elected delegates from 81 provinces, there should be five elected delegates from the National Capital Region plus 14 delegates to be appointed by President Duterte – for a total of 100 members of the convention.

Election by provinces would ignore the fact that some provinces like Cebu, Pangasinan, and Cavite are so populous that they should not be given only one delegate – like, say, Batanes. It might be better to elect one delegate per district.

There is also likely to be objection to having appointed delegates sitting with the elected ones in a hybrid convention. The Constitution provides for either a Con-Con or a Con-Ass, with a People’s Initiative as a third possibility. There is no provision for a hybrid as proposed by the Zubiri bill.

Meantime, in the House of Representatives, the new House officials led by incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao City are reported in favor of a Con-Ass rather than a Con-Con. In a Constitutional Assembly, the already elected senators and congressmen would constitute the body to draw up the new Constitution. This would save money otherwise needed for an election.

Some might not look kindly at this idea, however, as Con-Ass members were elected to enact laws as senators or congressmen. Con-Con delegates, on the other hand, would be leaders elected specifically for Constitution making and should, hopefully, include recognized legal and constitutional authorities.

All these issues over the manner of amending the Constitution should be resolved as early as possible. Afterwards, we can turn to what changes must be made in the Constitution. This ultimately is our ultimate concern. We will be drawing up a Constitution that will be the heart and soul of our nation, the basic law that will govern its life in the coming years.