Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. on Tuesday renewed his push for the convening of Congress as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to propose changes in the Constitution’s “restrictive” economic provisions.
The representative of Pampanga’s third district made the move following Speaker Martin G. Romualdez’s statement that the House is open to discussing with the Senate the mode of changing the language of the Charter’s economic provisions.
Under Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6, the House has opted for the constitutional convention mode.
“I agree with Senate President Migz (Juan Miguel) Zubiri that a con-con will have plenary powers, including proposing political amendments. Congress will have no control over a con-con. So should we not instead convene as a con-ass?” Gonzales said.
Gonzales, who had proposed con-ass under RBH 1, said a constituent assembly “is the most expeditious, most inexpensive and most controllable manner of proposing Charter amendments.”
“We could agree under a joint resolution to limit the effort to rewriting the economic provisions. I think there is consensus on that in both chambers. Any political amendment proposal will be immediately rejected,” he said.
He said the two chambers could also agree that voting would be separate, with each house mustering at least a three-fourths vote on any constitutional amendment proposal as required by the Constitution.
“As for the expenses, these would be minimal, since there would be no need for an election, unlike in a constitutional convention, no additional salaries and allowances, no additional personnel. Whatever expenses that may be incurred, we could charge them to our own budget,” he added.
Gonzales pointed out that a con-ass that would limit its job to proposing changes in the Charter’s economic provisions should take only a few months to finish its task.
“If we convene in May or June, we could have September as our deadline so we could present the Charter amendment proposals to the people in a plebiscite that could coincide with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October to further limit expenses,” he said.
He said Congress could meet as a con-ass in the morning and as a legislature in the afternoon.
He stressed that a con-ass would not only address the misgivings of Zubiri and his Senate colleagues on the plenary powers of a con-con but the concern as well of the Makati Business Club and big business groups on the high cost of a convention, which was estimated at a minimum of P14 billion.
Allowances alone, at P10,000 a day for each 320 convention delegates, would amount to P672 million over the proposed seven-month life of the assembly.
Delegates would also be entitled to traveling and lodging allowances, plus their own staff.
The business groups said the huge amount a convention would require could better be used for economic development activities like building more roads.