House panel to vote on proposals to amend Charter

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    THE House committee on constitutional amendments is set to vote today on the proposals to amend the Constitution after taking into consideration the proposals of the Department of Interior and Local Government’s inter-agency task force on constitutional amendments.

    “We will decide what recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform we will include in our report to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the plenary,” said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, panel chair.

    In a closed-door meeting late last year, the panel adopted a resolution seeking to amend the Constitution to lift its economic restrictions and fix the terms of legislators and local officials to five years subject to three re-elections.

    The panel approved the consolidated resolution in an executive session even if President Duterte had already made it clear that Charter change will not be a priority in his remaining three years.

    However, lawmakers had to withdraw the passage of a committee report on the measure seeking to amend the Constitution so it can belatedly consider the recommendations of the DILG task force, which is composed of 11 representatives from various government agencies.

    Rodriguez said his committee is treating the task force’s recommendations as the administration’s official proposal because it was President Duterte who created the group.

    He said the group conducted nationwide consultations before submitting its recommendations to his committee.

    Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año chairs the task force, with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as its vice chairman. It is composed of nine agencies.

    Rodriguez said many of group’s proposals jibe with the suggestions contained in his committee’s initial report.

    He said the common recommendations include electing senators by region, fixing a five-year term of office for local officials and House members, and lifting foreign ownership restrictions.

    “In the case of the regional election of the Senate, the task force is proposing the creation of 17 regions with two senators each for a total of 34, while in our initial report, we recommended nine regions with three senators each for a total of 27. But at least, there is consensus on the election of senators by region. In the present Senate, there is no representation from Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

    As for the term of office, Rodriguez added that the Año panel is recommending five years with one reelection, while his committee is for two reelections.