House eyes con-ass for charter change
Three Cha-cha resolutions that have been filed all call for the House and the Senate to meet as a con-ass to work on constitutional changes.
House eyes con-ass for charter change
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — House members who are pushing for Charter change (Cha-cha) prefer convening Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass) as a mode of proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Three Cha-cha resolutions that have been filed all call for the House and the Senate to meet as a con-ass to work on constitutional changes. 

All three measures provide that the two chambers vote separately on Cha-cha proposals.

The vote required in each chamber to approve any proposed amendment will be three-fourths vote of all members.

Deputy speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. authored one of the resolutions, while Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez introduced the two other measures.

“For economic consideration, convening Congress into a con-ass is more practical as it does away with a costly election of delegates to a constitutional convention (con-con),” Gonzales said yesterday.

Aside from billions spent for electing delegates, he said billions more would have to be appropriated for the operation of the convention, including expenses for salaries, offices, travel, hearings and office equipment and supplies.

“Many of these expenses could be avoided in the case of a con-ass. We could use the same Senate and House offices and staff. We could save billions,” Gonzales said.

He said the two chambers, as a constituent assembly, could control their timetable and the constitutional changes to be approved.

“We cannot do that in the case of a con-con. It will have plenary powers and a life of its own,” he added.

Two of Gonzales’ and Rodriguez’s resolutions seek changes in the economic provisions of the Constitution.

The other Rodriguez measure proposes to shift the nation to the federal system.

Rodriguez urged presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo to read the resolutions before commenting on them.

“He should not lecture us on how to amend the Constitution. We know the procedure,” Rodriguez said.

He was referring to a statement of Panelo, who said in a Palace briefing: “You do not amend the Constitution through a concurrent resolution.”

“We know that. If he has read the resolutions, the proposal is for Congress to convene as a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Charter. And con-ass is one of three ways under the Constitution to introduce amendments. Of course, the proposed changes would have to be approved by the people in a plebiscite,” Rodriguez said.

He said the separate voting proposal removes one obstacle to convening the two chambers as a con-ass.

“We cannot adopt the stand taken by previous House leaders that there be joint voting, or that the House could do Cha-cha alone. That would negate the existence of the Senate and the bicameral nature of Congress,” he said, adding such stand stymied efforts by previous administrations to move Cha-cha forward.

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