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Palace allies block house's con-ass plan

CONSENSUS from a wide spectrum of society—which includes the Catholic Church—is building up against a plan by members of the House of Representatives to convene as a constituent assembly without the participation of the Senate in revising the 1987 Constitution.

Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was elected in 2010 and served as senator under the Nacionalista Party during the time of then President Benigno Aquino, said he was not in favor of the so-called “Con-Ass” to replace the 1987 Constitution as he described the plan initiated by the lower house as a “big mess.”

“The Speaker of the House has decided to take an independent course and he is saying they will go for it without the senators. That’s setting up for conflict.” Marcos said in an interview with reporters during his visit in Western Visayas this weekend.

In related developments:

• A party-list lawmaker on Saturday warned against the inordinate rush to amend the 1987 Constitution, saying rewriting the Charter through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) “is not the right way to do it.”

 “Why are the proponents of Charter Change in such a rush that they had to railroad House Concurrent Resolution Number 9 convening Congress into a constituent assembly?” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza asked.

“The House leadership cited a House rule that allowed only three speeches for and two against as their basis for terminating the period of interpellation and debate.  In a chamber composed of almost 300 members, why limit the interpellations to three and two on such a crucial matter as amendments to the Constitution? That’s ridiculous and very undemocratic.  Each member should be allowed ample time to raise questions,” Atienza, a House deputy minority leader, said.

• A Catholic bishop and one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution warned that amending the charter should not be entrusted solely to members of the House of Representatives. 

The Senate and the House are deadlocked on whether Congress should vote separately or jointly during charter change deliberations. 

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said congressmen would still form a constituent assembly, referred to  often in its shortened form “con-ass,” if senators choose not to participate.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani believes a majority of the members of the Lower House merely follow the dictates of Malacañang. 

Marcos, who chaired several committees, including the Committee on Local Government and the Committee on Public Works, said the government must “have to find a way that both Houses are involved in a way that it’s consistent with the Constitution.”

Marcos teamed up with the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and ran for vice president in the May 9, 2016 Presidential Elections but lost to then Camarines Sur. Rep. Leni Robredo. 

The namesake and the only son of the former president Ferdinand Marcos filed an election protest with the Supreme Court in connection with the vice presidential race, which he said was marred by massive cheating.

 

Marcos’ sentiment on the issue of Charter Change (Cha-Cha) echoed the statement issued by Sen. Ralph Recto, saying “It takes two to Cha-Cha.” 

“Going solo is shadow dancing. Or going up the boxing ring for the 12 full rounds with no opponent and then triumphantly declaring yourself winner by unanimous decision,” said Recto.

Members of both Houses of Congress remain in a deadlock on whether they should vote jointly or separately should the lawmakers convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The 3/4th voting formula, to be exercised by one chamber alone, is the wrong calculus, according to Recto. 

“The Constitution speaks of a bicameral legislature. If two bodies are needed to pass a bill changing the name of a barangay, then how can one house arrogate upon itself the far more important job of changing the basic law of the land?” 

Recto said “there are ways of amending the Charter other than a dubious recourse that violates the Charter itself.”

Recto also said there is no need replacing the constitution when an ordinary legislation can raise local government funds by P283 billion.

He debunked the claims that only through a Charter revision can local governments have a bigger share of tax collections.

Recto said local governments stand to lose P121.5 billion this year due to the longstanding faulty interpretation of the rule on how the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shall be computed.

Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, grants LGUs (Local Government Units) a 40-percent share from the national government’s internal revenue collection.

But under the current system, the 40 percent is taken from Bureau of Internal Revenue collections, “but does not include excise and VAT collections of the Bureau of Customs.”

 “This is wrong because VAT and excise taxes are classified as internal revenue, and the BOC is a mere collecting agent of the BIR, so in computing the share of LGUs in determining their IRA, BOC’s VAT and excise tax collections must be factored in,” Recto said.

 Recto believes that this injustice to LGUs can be rectified through an Executive Order by President Duterte, “as I am sure that this is an advocacy he believes in, being a former mayor himself.”

 Earlier, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said a new charter must be crafted through a constitutional convention instead of the Congress sitting as a constituent assembly. 

The former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) insisted that the framers of the Constitution must not only be known for their “probity and their intellectual acumen” but also be “free of vested interests.”

As far as Atienza is concerned, congressmen were elected by the people to ensure delivery of basic services like healthcare to theor constituents, apart from enacting laws but not necessarily amending the Constitution.

 “We are neither Constitutionalists nor legal experts to presume to amend the Constitution. This is best left in the very capable hands of delegates elected by the people in a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).  While we, as lawmakers, should continue our job of crafting laws, instead of sitting as a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution,” Atienza said.

 Atienza also said that rushing the process of amending the Constitution is sending the wrong signal to the public as to the motive for doing so.

 “Admittedly, there are several provisions in the 1987 Constitution which need to be changed -- the economic provisions prohibiting foreign investments in businesses such as telcos and media, as well as the Philippine National Police (PNP) Law where our local chief executives have no control over the police force.  I am not against charter change but it should be done through a Con-Con, not Con-Ass,” Atienza pointed out.

Topics: Con- Ass , BongBong Marcos , Charter change
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