“We will spend for the election of delegates in every congressional district. The delegates will have salaries and allowances. They will have their respective staff. The convention will have a secretariat, too,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said.
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Con-con to cost P7B – Nograles
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal of some lawmakers to elect a constitutional convention for Charter change will cost taxpayers at least P7 billion, the chairman of the House of Representatives appropriations committee said yesterday.

“We will spend for the election of delegates in every congressional district. The delegates will have salaries and allowances. They will have their respective staff. The convention will have a secretariat, too,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said.

Additionally, the government has to provide or rent a building for the purpose, among many other logistical requirements, he said, while Congress cannot impose a time limit on the convention to finish the job.

“The cost could increase and this may end up hurting the other programs of the Duterte administration, especially its delivery of social services,” he said.

Nograles, together with Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, supports the proposal of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene as a constituent assembly to change the Charter that would include a shift to a federal system of government.

“Since the composition of such (assembly) will be similar to that of Congress, we might as well…use the money we save for free education, free health care and other subsidy programs for our people,” Albano said.

Nograles added that a constituent assembly would “maximize the output of legislators while focusing on a specific goal, which is to federalize the government.”

“We will work as lawmakers and Charter framers at the same time. This will save taxpayers a huge sum and, since we have fixed terms, we will have a definite time period to finish the job. This means we will achieve our goal faster,” Nograles said.

But opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman insisted that Congress should elect members of a constitutional convention instead of Congress forming itself as a constituent assembly.

Lagman said the assembly would be a “virtual rubber stamp” of Duterte.

No to ‘no-el’

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is confident that most of his colleagues will not support a no-election (“no-el”) scenario as part of the moves to amend the Constitution in order to shift the form of government from unitary to federal.

He noted that there are five senators whose terms are expiring next year, namely Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

Eligible for reelection are Sens. Grace Poe, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sonny Angara and Cynthia Villar.

“The no-election scenario cannot take place unless the Constitution is amended and ratified and this would have to be done before the May 2019 elections,” Drilon said over dwIZ radio.

“I trust my colleagues in the Senate that they will not support this. They will be the ones who will benefit from ‘no-el.’ If you vote for ‘no-el’ then you would be accused of having a conflict of interest,” he said.

So far, Drilon noted that the issue of Charter change was not discussed among the senators, except for Pimentel, whose advocacy is a shift in the form of government to federalism.

During Drilon’s stint as chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revisions of codes and laws, he conducted a hearing on the proposed amendments to the Constitution, but noted that Malacañang did not have any concrete position on the issue yet.

Drilon said there was an executive order to create a study group for the proposed amendments, but he aired his doubts that this has been formed.

Charter change in May this year, Drilon said, is unrealistic because of several reasons, including the intention of the House committee on justice to transmit the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also in May.

Once the articles of impeachment are received by the Senate, Drilon said, the chamber would have to convene immediately as an impeachment court to hear the case.

Drilon said no other legislative work would be accomplished while the trial is ongoing because all of their time and effort would be focused on their task as judges.

In a separate interview, Pimentel said he would make sure that there would be no holdover of incumbent officials if the amendments to the Constitution are approved by Congress.

Pimentel said he would file a resolution calling on the Senate and the House to convene as a constituent assembly to tackle the amendments to the Constitution, specifically the shift to federalism.

He said his personal target is to have the amendments approved and the plebiscite done together with the elections in May next year.

Once this is approved, Pimentel said, there would be a three-year transition period, within which elections would be held.

“We have a commitment that there will be no holdover. If the transition period will be up to 2022, then the transition leaders would have to be elected,” Pimentel said.

“We should have started one year ago. We are very late already,” he added.

Meanwhile, an administration lawmaker branded as speculative the term extension being floated for President Duterte if the government shifts to a federal system. – With Marvin Sy, Emmanuel Tupas

KARLO NOGRALES
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