February 23, 2018, 4:27 pm
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House approves Con-Ass resolution

THE House of Representatives last night approved the concurrent resolution seeking to convene the House and the Senate into a constituent assembly (con-ass) to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

Congressmen voted by voice to adopt the motion of senior deputy majority leader Juan Pablo Bondoc (PDP-Laban, Pampanga) who moved to terminate the period of interpellation and later approve Concurrent Resolution No. 9.

Bondoc made the motion after Rep. Edgar Erice (LP, Caloocan) questioned the quorum in the middle of plenary debate between Reps. Ariel Casilao (PL, Anakpawis) and Roger Mercado (PDP-Laban, Southern Leyte), the measure’s sponsor and chair of the committee on constitutional amendments.

The count showed there were 186 warm bodies on the floor which prompted the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia of Cebu to declare a quorum and entertain Bondoc’s motion.

The measure will need the concurrence of the Senate before both chambers can sit to introduce the amendments to pave the way for a shift to a federal form of government.

Mercado earlier said congressmen were on track to vote and approve a resolution this week that would convene both chambers of Congress into a constitutional assembly.

“Let’s not waste people’s money and time. Let us go ahead and convene already,” Mercado told a hearing on Tuesday.

Mercado has said that voting on the proposal to convene the House and the Senate as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to introduce the amendments to the Constitution should be undertaken jointly.

Article XVII, Sec. 1 of the Constitution provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”

Some senators are opposing the joint voting since they will be outnumbered by the House, which has 292 members.

Mercado earlier said he expects congressmen to give in to the senators’ request that the voting on the amendments be done separately.

House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas last year said congressmen will ask senators to vote separately on the resolution to convene a con-ass while sitting jointly to vote on proposed amendments.

If the voting will be done jointly, Congress will need 237 votes of all members (292 congressmen and 23 senators).

If they will vote separately, the House will need 220 votes while the Senate will have to secure the support of 18 members.

DU30 FOR 10 YEARS

Despite drawing heavy flak, congressmen continued to entertain the proposal to cancel the 2019 midterm elections and allow President Duterte to seek another term of office in 2022 as the country shifts into a federal form of government to be headed by a Prime Minister.

The proposed amendments being deliberated upon by the House committee on constitutional amendments provides that the President shall be elected for a term of five years with one re-election – a provision which may allow Duterte to seek another term after his present one ends in 2022.

The proposed amendments were prepared by subcommittee 1, which was tasked to review Articles VI, VII, and X of the 1987 Constitution, (The Legislative, The Executive, and The Judiciary).

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (NP, Surigao del Norte) earlier called for the extension of Duterte’s term for another six years, saying the current six-year term is too short for an effective leader like him.

However, Mercado sought to downplay the proposal, saying everything will depend on what the people want.

“These are just possibilities. We are also sensitive to public sentiments, especially if the people would not want to suspend the election,” he said.

Mercado said the 2019 midterm polls will also push through if the public will oppose the no election (no-el) proposal of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who called for a plebiscite to be held simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataang (SK) elections on May 24, 2018.

Under the transitory provisions being proposed by the subcommittee which is also composed of congressmen, the first election under a federal constitution will be held on the second Monday of May 2022.

Following the adoption of the new Charter, Congress – both the House of Representatives and the Senate – shall be dissolved and replaced by an interim Parliament which “shall exist immediately and shall continue until the members of the regular Parliament shall have been elected and assumed office.”

In effect, such provision extends the terms of the recent members of Congress since they will sit in a holdover capacity as members of the interim Parliament, along with some members of the Cabinet who will be appointed by the President.

The incumbent President shall exercise all the powers and functions of the head of state and head of government under the Federal constitution until the election of the next President and Prime Minister in 2022.

Vice President Leni Robredo shall continue until 2022 to exercise her powers and prerogatives under the 1987 Constitution before the position is abolished.

The seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled by election in accordance with Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-list System for the May 2022 national elections. Thereafter, the Parliament shall enact a law on party-list or sectoral representation under the new constitution.

The proposed constitution will give elected officials a five-year term for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

The measure also said a minimum of three senators will be elected in each of the five states to be created: The States of Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, Bangsamoro, and Metro Manila which will be the seat of the Federal Government.

The Legislative power shall be vested in the Parliament of the Federal Republic which shall consist of the Federal Assembly, as the national Legislative Department and the Senate, as the legislative body representative of the regions.

The Federal Assembly shall be composed of not more than 300 members unless otherwise provided for by law.

Eighty percent of the members of Parliament shall be elected by plurality votes where each single member district shall have one seat while the remaining 20 percent will shall be elected through a party-list system of registered federal or regional parties or organizations.

Each State shall have a unicameral State Assembly which shall exercise the legislative power of the State government. Each State Assembly shall be composed of two representatives directly elected from each highly urbanized or independent cities.

Each State shall also have its own Constitution, adopt its name and choose a capital, flag, anthem and a seal.

It shall also have a Premiere who shall be elected by majority of all members of the State Assembly to exercise the Executive power of the State government.

It shall have a minimum of three seats in the Senate and the senators receiving the three highest number of direct votes by registered voters in a region shall represent their region.

The Federal Assembly shall elect its Speaker and the Senate, its President, by a majority of all its respective members. – With Reuters
 
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