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Congress: Charter Change can wait

Congress leaders yesterday agreed to temporarily shelve Charter change proposals to concentrate on the passage of the first national budget under a Duterte presidency and avoid re-enactment.

In a meeting yesterday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel Jr., together with leaders of the majority blocs in the House and Senate, agreed to start amendiing the 1987 Constitution by January 2017.

The questions on the mode of amendment and the manner of voting, in case a constituent assembly is chosen, were not resolved in the meantime.

However, sources in the meeting said there is a possibility that the House will accede to the Senate’s stand on the manner of voting.

Incumbent senators, like their counterparts in past Congress, insists that Senate and Lower House must vote as separate bodies on constitutional provisions that will be amended by a constituent assembly.

“Between now and November, we’ll prioritize deliberations for the national budget for 2017. After that…maybe in January [next year], we can talk about the revision of the Constitution,” said Alvarez as he emerged from the meeting with partymate Pimentel.

On the other hand Pimentel said: “We’ll concentrate on the budget now but we can brush up on the Constitution and other urgent laws.”

The House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles will deliberate on the P3.3 trillion budget proposal starting August 22.

However, Alvarez said his proposal for the formation of a 20-man Constitutional Commission through an executive order stays.

The House leader explained that the proposed Concom to be composed of constitutional experts and national leaders may already start deliberating on proposed Charter changes in order that it can present its final proposals to Congress by January 2017.

“While we are busy on the budget, this body can work on the new Constitution. The EO has been drafted a week ago,” Alvarez said.

“We’ll appreciate all the help we can get. They can do the Constitutional research for us for now, but since we will be a part [of the body that will revise the Constitution], we should also start reading up,” Pimentel explained.

The Senate leader was also insistent on separate voting between congressmen and senators once they are convened as representatives to the constituent assembly. (BEN ROSARIO)