House leaders withdraw Con-Con, back Con-Ass

House leaders withdraw Con-Con, back Con-Ass


The move to introduce changes in the 1987 Constitution via a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) has begun to snowball in the House of Representatives (HOR).

This, after two House Deputy Speakers in Cebu-3rd district Rep. Gwen Garcia and Batangas 2nd district Rep. Raneo Abu both withdrew their respective measures calling for a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), which was the other popular mode for Charter change (Cha-cha) among congressmen.

Garcia and Abu made their withdrawals during Wednesday’s controversial hearing by the Constitutional Amendments Committee which is chaired by Southern Leyte lone district Rep. Roger Mercado.

“I crafted this bill long before events have overtaken us. This was one of the earliest bills I filed, and I called then for a Con-Con,” Garcia said, referring to her measure, House Bill (HB) No. 312.

“However, since then, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to take the direction of a Con-Ass. Speaker Benoit Alvarez has also called for a Con-Ass.

“In the spirit of cooperation and unity, with the direction of our present administration and the leadership of the House, I am withdrawing my bill in favor of the holding of a Con-Ass to change our Constitution,” Garcia said.

Duterte had been prodding Congress to effect Cha-cha in order to facilitate the switch from the present unitary form of government to a federal form. Initially, the Davao City mayor-turned-president’s preferred mode was via Con-Con.

But a couple of months into his presidency, Duterte changed his mind and started to favor Con-Ass, which is said to be cheaper, faster and more efficient.

The key difference between a Con-Con and Con-Ass is the election of delegates who will introduce changes in the Constitution. Under the former, delegates must be elected, while in the latter, the sitting congressmen will serve as the delegates themselves on top of their given duty as lawmakers.

Doing away with the logistics of the Con-Con will reportedly save the government some P4 to P5 billion.

“My conviction and advocacy on full decentralization and devolution of resources and functions from the national government down to the local government is the reason why I want to shift from unitary to a federal system of government,” Abu told the panel.

“Earlier, I filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) of Congress No. 5 calling for a Con-Con. But because of unforeseen events and because of reasons mentioned by the Secretary of Budget and Management, I’m withdrawing RBH No. 5 in favor of House Joint Resolution (HJR) No. 2 calling for a Con-Ass,” Abu said.

Negros Occidental 3rd district Rep. Albee Benitez authored the joint resolution.

Earlier in the hearing, Abu asked Benitez if he could become a co-author of the measure, something that the latter gladly accepted.

“We bear the burden of giving the next generation a stronger Constitution. It is my belief that for the interest of the country, we must adopt Con-Ass,” the Visayan solon said in his sponsorship speech of HJR No. 2.

Later in the hearing, Garcia moved for the adoption of Con-Ass as the mode that Congress would use in amending the existing Charter.

However, the hearing was ended abruptly when Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Barbers and Surigao del Sur 1st district Rep. Prospero Pichay nearly came to blows over the discussion of Garcia’s motion.

The Committee is handling around 30 measures calling for Cha-cha.

At any rate, Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte reckoned that the time to push for federalism is now or at the absolute height of Duterte’s popularity.

Villafuerte said the creation of a federal government would decongest Metro Manila.

“Federalism will empower LGUs to decide for themselves and craft their own development agendas that address their respective resources, problems, development paths and potentials for growth,” said the solon, who like Duterte is a former local chief executive.

‘’It is the next step to decentralization and devolution — and is in keeping with the primacy of genuine autonomy in both the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code,” he noted.

Railroading Cha-cha

While everybody was distracted by the near-scuffle between his Congress colleagues, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque stressed that the big issue during Wednesday’s public hearing on Charter Change (Cha-cha) was its apparent railroading by the House Majority.

“I don’t know why they want to railroad Charter Change. The public doesn’t even approve of it,” said Roque, a lawyer and rookie legislator.

“Why would you agree to having your time wasted when you find out in the end that separate voting with the Senate is required?” asked Roque.

Ultimately, the Committee failed to put Garcia’s motion to a vote. The hearing was adjourned with the lawmakers having nothing to show for it.

“It was very clear that they intended to railroad the process but I think the democratic process prevailed and they did not succeed. I consider this as a victory for those who do not really want Charter change at this point,” Roque said.

* * *


Read 687 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)