Alvarez proposes commission to aid Congress draft charter changes
( - August 1, 2016 - 2:40pm
MANILA, Philippines (Philippine News Agency) -- House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday said that he would propose the creation of a 20-member constitutional commission to help Congress, acting as constituent assembly, in drafting proposed charter changes.
In a statement, the House leader said the creation of such a commission would also allay reservations aired by some quarters against amending the charter through a constituent assembly instead of a constitutional convention.
“I will propose to our president to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission. The proposed commission will be tasked to study and review the present constitution and draft a new charter which will then be submitted to the constituent assembly where it will be discussed thoroughly,” Alvarez said.
The House speaker said the commission should include constitutional law experts like former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., lawyer Reuben Canoy, and San Beda Law School dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations, the academe and other sectors of society.
While Alvarez has yet to inform President Rodrigo Duterte of his proposal, Alvarez said that he sees no legal impediment to the creation of the commission.

Charter change still through Con-Ass

“It would still be Congress, acting as constituent assembly, that would discuss and approve the proposed charter changes,” he said.
“And after Congress approves the proposed amendments, it’s not final yet. The public must still agree to the proposed changes. That’s why it’s safe because in the end it’s the people who would decide whether they agree or not with the proposed new constitution,” Alvarez said.
In the meantime, the speaker said that he understands the prevailing public sentiment against amending the constitution through a constituent assembly given their experience in past charter change attempts in previous administrations.
Alvarez himself filed a resolution, the very first resolution filed in the 17th Congress, seeking to amend the constitution through a constitutional convention in accordance with the earlier position of President Duterte.
Initially, President Duterte favored amending the charter through a constitutional convention but later changed his mind in favor of a constituent assembly to save money.

'Con-con too costly'

According to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, convening Congress into a constituent assembly would only cost the government P2 billion as compared to convening a constitutional convention, which would entail around P5 billion to P7 billion.
Alvarez said that the money to be saved would be used to fulfill the president's other campaign promises such as providing better pay for police and soldiers, increasing benefits for the elderly and retirees, as well as pushing the fight against drugs and criminality among others.
Nevertheless, the House speaker assured the public that despite the move for a constituent assembly, Congress would heed President Duterte's call to craft a new charter that would be pro-Filipino.
“Members of Congress must rise to the challenge of President Duterte that as Filipinos, we must work to uphold the interest of the Filipino people,” Alvarez said.

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