'Our little sacrifice': P10K daily allowance for delegates among costs of con-con

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
'Our little sacrifice': P10K daily allowance for delegates among costs of con-con
After holding seven public consultations that include out-of-town meetings, the panel, headed by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, agreed to stamp their approval on a still unnumbered House Resolution calling for a Con-Con.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Delegates to the proposed constitutional convention will be paid at least P10,000 for every day that they show up to the meetings held by the convention or its committees.

This is according to the bill approved by the constitutional amendments committee at the House of Representatives on Monday, which is the accompanying measure to the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 calling for a constitutional convention. In contrast, bills calling for a national minimum wage have been pending at the committee level since 2022.

"Every delegate shall be entitled to a per diem of Ten Thousand Pesos (Php 10,000.00) for every day of actual attendance in the Convention or in any of its committees," the bill read. 

According to the still-unnumbered bill, the proposed remuneration for the delegates exclude the travel and lodging expenses they will incur while attending sessions of the constitutional convention.  

The delegates will also be serving a term of seven months and 13 days, or from Nov. 21, 2023 to June 30, 2024, according to the measure.

During this period, the delegates could be working for around five to seven days a week, depending on the workload and the duration of the sessions they will attend, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the constitutional amendments committee, said during the committee’s deliberations. 

To form the constitutional convention, a representative from each of the 253 districts in the country will be elected by the voting public, which is scheduled to be held simultaneously with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October 2023, according to the bill. 

The convention will also include at least 33 sectoral representatives in total, with three representatives from the retired judiciary, academe and legal profession, respectively; as well as two representatives drawn from the sectors of the peasant and urban poor, workers, farmers and fisherfolk, indigenous cultural communities, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other marginalized groups.

The Senate president and the House speaker can also jointly appoint representatives from other sectors, as long as the number of appointees make up 20% of the total number of delegates. The appointees must also come from the basic sectors defined in Republic Act 8425 or the "Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act," according to the measure.

A computation by Philstar.com shows that if 286 members of the constitutional convention – a conservative amount given the number of representatives that can still be appointed to meet the minimum threshold – serve their full term as delegates and work a minimum of five days weekly for 31 weeks, the government will have to foot a bill of at least P443,300,000. 

Necessary expense? 

During the committee’s discussion of the unnumbered bill, Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) questioned the daily rate that delegates will earn in the context of the widening wage inequality in the country and in the face of soaring prices of goods. 

“This is almost the minimum wage of a worker for one month. So, in total, how much will be spent? There is P10,000 per diem that will be allotted to delegates, meanwhile there is no budget for Filipinos who have been calling for financial aid amid rising prices of good and an (economic) crisis,” Brosas said in Filipino. 

Rep. Florida Robes (San Jose Del Monte City), however, defended the expense and said that "we have to give our little sacrifices" in holding a constitutional convention, without mentioning at what cost the sacrifice would entail in terms of the government’s limited coffers. 

"In this kind of situation, where we really want to improve the country, we have to give our little sacrifice. So (what Rep. Brosas) is saying regarding the salary of workers, we will get to that. There are budgets that can be appropriated for that," Robes said.  

If the House and the Senate approve the bill, the funding for the elections of the delegates will be sourced from "available appropriations of the (Commission on Elections) in the Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 General Appropriations Act," the bill read.

Rep. Rodriguez has pegged the total cost of holding a constitutional convention at P9.5 billion – more than half or P5 billion of which will go to the constitutional convention proper itself, P3 billion to the plebiscite’s ratification of the new Charter and P1.5 billion to the election of delegates. 

Rodriguez said these figures are based on an estimate by his office, with the projected cost of the election of delegates supposedly consulted with the Commission on Elections.

At least 17 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while minority lawmakers Brosas and Senior Deputy Minority LeaderRaul Daza (Northern Samar) voted against it. 

The measure is expected to move quickly through the House during plenary readings as House Speaker Martin Romualdez himself has deemed it necessary to lift the Constitution’s restrictions on foreign ownership to open up the economy to investments. 

While there is no similar measure in the Senate calling for a constitutional convention — the bill filed by Sen. Robinhood Padilla favors instead the less costly constitutional assembly — the House measure would still be sent to the Senate committee if it passes first, second and final reading at the House.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Feb. 14 that amending the Charter is not a priority for the Senate given other legislative measures deemed more important by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.

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