House panel withdraws Chacha report

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    THE House committee on constitutional amendments is set to recall its committee report proposing revisions to the 1987 Constitution so it can consider the recommendations of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) inter-agency task force on constitutional reforms.

    “We go back to the drawing board,” panel chair Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez told reporters, explaining that the committee will have to reopen its hearings before recommending the measure for plenary deliberations and approval.

    In a closed-door meeting in December last year, the committee adopted a resolution seeking to lift economic restrictions in the Constitution 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 has already made it clear that Charter change is not a priority in his remaining three years.

    “We are going to reopen (hearings) so we can hear the proposals by the members of Congress and also go back to public hearings with the presence of media,” said Rodriguez, acknowledging that the panel had drawn flak for approving the measure in an executive session.

    Rodriguez said one of the proposals of the DILG inter-agency body is to include in the Constitution the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mandanas v. Ochoa case, which states that the computation of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) should include all tax collections, including those earned by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), instead of just the revenues from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

    This means that the proposed P640.6 billion IRA for 2019 should increase by about half of the amount because of the inclusion of the BOC’s collection of national taxes, including tariffs and duties.

    The DILG body is also proposing the creation of a Regional Development Authority and provisions on campaign finance regulation, anti-political turncoatism, and anti-political dynasty.

    Rodriguez said the committee aims to approve the Charter change resolution by March to allow Congress to convene into a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution by May.

    Congressmen are planning to change the Constitution by treating the proposed amendments as an ordinary piece of legislation which will be approved by the House and then the Senate.

    There has long been a dispute in the manner of voting because Article XVII, section 1 of the Constitution merely 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.”

    The House version fixes the terms of legislators and local officials to five years subject to three re-elections.

    The Chacha resolution likewise increases the number of senators from 12 to 27 or three per region and provides that the President and Vice President shall be elected in tandem.

    Under the 1987 Constitution, congressmen and local officials have three-year terms which is limited to three terms or nine years, while a senator has a six-year term and can be elected to two consecutive terms for a total of 12 consecutive years. Local officials have three-year terms subject to three consecutive terms.