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Con-Ass to amend Constitution

Congress leaders have decided to junk Constitutional Convention and will instead opt to transform the legislative body into a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of amending the 1987 Constitution.

House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez disclosed before the Management Association of the Philippines that he expects the amended Constitution to be submitted for ratification in a plebiscite in 2019, simultaneously with the mid-term elections that is scheduled that year.

The new government formed under the new Constitution will start operation in 2022, three years after the transitory provision shall have been completed.

Coincidentally, Cesar Virata, the country’s lone prime minister who served during the national assembly under the Marcos government, was present during the event.

Also present was Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista. Alvarez was introduced by MAP president Perry L. Pe.

Alvarez, PDP-Laban secretary general who now leads the super majority in the House, said 11 states will be created under a federal system of government that will have a parliament and a president to be directly elected by all qualified voters.

He said the House of Representatives should be expected to pass by December the legislative measure that would convene Congress into a Con-Ass.

The newly installed House leader had originally filed a resolution proposing Con-Con as the mode of amending the 1987 Charter.

However, he admitted that budgetary constraints had convinced him and other Con-Con proponents in the House to abandon the proposal and instead opt for Con-Ass.

“Ang problema kasi ay budget, maraming kailangang pera especially in increasing the salaries of police and military personnel. Mahihirapan si Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno to allocate that big amount of money for Con-Con,” he explained.

According to Alvarez, holding a Con-Con whose delegates will be elected directly by the people will cost government somewhere from R6 billion to P7 billion.

“It was agreed that Congress will simply form a Constitutional Assembly to revise the Constitution. There is nothing to worry about because consultations with the people will be ensured,” Alvarez told business leaders.

Justifying the choice by the pro-Duterte majority bloc of the mode of amendment, Alvarez stressed that congressmen and senators who will be tasked to revise the charter have also been elected by the people, adding that a Con-Ass is also a mode for Charter amendment that is allowed under the 1987 Constitution.

The lawmaker predicted a better business climate in the country as competition among the states to be created will be bolstered.

“Opportunities before and now are concentrated in Metro Manila. Once federalism is put in place, there will be states who will be free to manage their own economic policies and chart their destiny. Once you create these states, there is no reason for poverty not to be addressed,” he said. (Ben R. Rosario)