Resolution giving House members 5-year term approved by panel

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    SAYING there was no need for resource persons to help them out, the House committee on constitutional amendments adopted during an executive session 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 chaired by Cagayan De Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez approved the consolidated resolution in a meeting last Wednesday even if President Duterte has already made it clear that Charter change will not be a priority in his remaining three years.

    Congressmen are planning to change the Constitution by treating it as an ordinary piece of legislation.

    The resolution specifically seeks to amend Articles VI, X, XII, XIV, and XVI of the 1987 Constitution and it will have to be approved by three-fourths of both House and 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.”

    Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the measure was approved in an executive session after 10 members voted for the measure while four opposed it.

    Zarate questioned the tack taken by the House leadership, saying “Charter change by legislation” is not mentioned in the Constitution.

    “Hindi naman ito nakalagay sa ating Saligang Batas (This is not allowed under our Constitution). This is a very dangerous action,” Zarate said.

    He said the meeting was held closed-door because the panel wanted a “smoother discussion.”

    Rodriguez said the panel held an executive session because the committee no longer needed to invite additional resource persons.

    “There were no more officials that were invited. We have heard all of them already,” he told reporters. “Wala kaming tinatago (We are not hiding anything).”

    Rodriguez said the proposal, if approved by both chambers, will have to undergo a plebiscite where the people will vote to approve or reject it.

    He said the committee will discuss the proposed shift to a federal form of government next year even if the President seems to have given up on it.

    The approved resolution seeks to lift the economic restrictions of the Constitution by adding the phrase “unless, otherwise provided by law” in specific areas: natural resources, foreign ownership of land, media, education and advertising.

    On the other hand, by fixing the terms of lawmakers to five years with three re-elections, the panel took its cue from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who earlier proposed either a four-year term with no term limits or a five-year term for congressmen and senators which will be limited to three terms or a total of 15 years.

    Under the Constitution, congressmen and local officials have three-year terms limited to three reelections or nine years, while a senator has a six-year term and can be elected to two consecutive terms.

    The 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.