Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chairman, told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News over the weekend that he would ask the House rules committee and the chamber’s leadership to schedule plenary deliberations on his panel’s recommendations.
Facebook/Rufus B. Rodriguez
House panel eyes constituent assembly in January
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - December 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives may convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) next month to consider four Charter change (Cha-cha) proposals endorsed by its committee on constitutional amendments.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, committee chairman, told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News over the weekend that he would ask the House rules committee and the chamber’s leadership to schedule plenary deliberations on his panel’s recommendations.

“I will suggest that we should already tackle our committee’s proposals as a constituent assembly upon resuming sessions on Jan. 20 after our month-long Christmas recess,” he said.

He said the Constitution does not require the House and the Senate to convene together in a joint session as a con-ass to consider proposed constitutional amendments.

“The Charter only requires separate voting and each chamber must obtain the three-fourths vote of all its members to approve any proposed amendment,” he said.

Rodriguez pointed out that after the House has approved the Cha-cha proposals as a con-ass, it would transmit the same to the Senate, which also has to comply with the requirements of the Constitution for tackling amendments.

“That is the process we envision, which complies with the Charter. In fact, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the Constitution, advocated this procedure,” he added.

After the two chambers have approved the proposals, the Commission on Elections would be asked to schedule a plebiscite for the ratification of the recommended changes by the people, he stressed.

One committee proposal is the insertion of the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law,” in at least seven economic provisions that limit foreign equity in land, exploitation of natural resources, public utilities, mass media, advertising, and education.

“The present restrictions will remain but the proposed change would authorize Congress to relax or scrap them. The suggested authority is for flexibility purposes. As of now, the legislature cannot do that, even if there is an urgent need to lift such restrictions to attract new business and investments that would generate jobs and income for our people,” Rodriguez said.

He said the Philippines is the only member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “where economic limitations are cast in stone in its Constitution.”

   The other three Cha-cha proposals are for the increase in the term of office of House members and local officials, the regional election of senators at three from each of the nine proposed regions and the fixing of their term at five years, and the tandem election of the president and vice president.

Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzalez Jr. of Pampanga, one of the proponents of a five-year tenure for congressmen and local officials, said the present three-year term “is too short.”

“An elected official spends his first year organizing and learning the ropes, if he is a neophyte. Serious work begins on the second year. By the third year, he starts thinking of the next election and begins campaigning,” he said.

He said five years would give elective officials at least three years to plan and undertake projects and programs for their constituents.

Under the Rodriguez’s committee’s proposals, lawmakers and senators would be limited to three consecutive terms, for a total of 15 years.

As to the statements of some senators that Cha-cha is not part of their priorities, Rodriguez said he hoped that “they see the light.”

“There should be regional representation in the Senate to promote the economic development of the regions and the countryside. At present, there are 12 senators from Metro Manila, while Muslim Mindanao is shut out,” he said.

He said senators should heed President Duterte’s appeal for Congress to finish Cha-cha within his term or it might never happen.

“For the first time in more than three decades, we have this opportunity to make Cha-cha succeed by updating our 32-year-old Constitution. We should take advantage of it,” he added. 

Ready for the Senate

The government inter-agency task force on constitutional reform (task force CORE) is urging the Senate to begin its own public consultations on the proposed constitutional amendments, as Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) spokesperson Usec. Jonathan Malaya said that they are all ready to discuss and defend their proposals before the Senate.

Malaya noted that they have garnered support from 256 local chief executives, as well as the signature of almost 22,500 citizens in the push for amendments in the charter.

“As soon as we are called by the Senate, we will submit to them the pledges of support we got, we will submit to them the signatures we have gathered, and we will submit to them the packages of reforms which we earlier submitted to the House,” he said in a statement.

The DILG has already conducted public consultations in 60 provinces, with 21 more to be conducted by January 2019.

Senator Francis Pangilinan has already filed a Senate bill that aims to increase the just share of local governments in national taxes and fees, similar to the CORE reforms, but it has not yet moved before the Senate.

Task force CORE is pushing for different reform packages, such as those that push for economic and political reforms.

The DILG has warned that the amendments passed by the House panel could be prone to abuse if the needed political reforms are not enacted alongside it.

Malaya said other political and electoral reforms in the package,  such as the strengthening of political parties, anti-turncoatism provisions, on campaign finance and anti-dynasty provisions, should also be passed.  – With Romina Cabrera

 

 

CHARTER CHANGE RUFUS RODRIGUEZ
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