House tackles con-ass for Charter change

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has opened floor debates on a resolution urging lawmakers to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) next month to work on Charter change.

Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, constitutional amendments committee chairman, said Wednesday night a con-ass “is the preferred mode of introducing changes to the Constitution because it is the most expeditious, open and least costly among the options studied.”

He said recent developments necessitate changes in the Charter “for it to be responsive to the exigencies of the times.”

“These include the need to provide a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao and to spur economic development in the countryside, and provide the trigger to the needed socio-economic and political reforms,” he said.

“Let’s not be afraid of change. Who knows this is the time that we have to reckon with history and claim what is ours for the longest time,” Mercado told his colleagues.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said he would like the country to have a new Constitution that would change the present system of government from presidential to federal.

He said the House of Representatives and the Senate would begin functioning as a constituent assembly next month to draft the envisioned federal Charter.

“We will create a small commission or committee to help us,” he said. He suggested that the new Charter be presented to the people for ratification in May next year simultaneously with the election of barangay officials.

With the plebiscite for ratification and barangay vote being held together, the government would save a lot on cost, he added.

Alvarez pointed out that the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be easier if a new federal Constitution is already in place.

He stressed that the envisioned new Charter would provide for autonomous regions throughout the country and not only in the Bangsamoro area.

Aside from changing the system of government, there are proposals to lift constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses.

Among the proponents are Reps. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental, Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of Cagayan de Oro City, and Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur.

Benitez is also suggesting a federal-presidential setup with a two-chamber legislature but with senators elected by regions instead of nationally.

On the other hand, Rodriguez is recommending the classic federal-parliamentary system with a unicameral parliament.

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