Lawmaker wants Constituent Assembly for charter change

Mara Cepeda

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Lawmaker wants Constituent Assembly for charter change
Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez wants the formation of a 'Council of Elders' from different sectors to guide lawmakers in crafting the amendments

MANILA, Philippines – Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez prefers holding a Constituent Assembly over a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) for the Philippine government to switch to federalism.  

Benitez said in a statement on Monday, July 4, that he filed House Joint Resolution Number 2.

“Constituent Assembly is the most expeditious and less costly [mode] of charter change,” said the lawmaker.  

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign, he strongly advocated for a shift to federalism, a form of government where the country is broken down into autonomous regions. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

There are 3 modes to amend the 1987 Constitution:

  • Constituent Assembly – Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines decide on the amendments.
  • Con-Con – The majority of Congress will first have to agree to call for a Con-Con, composed of representatives from every legislative district. These delegates are usually elected through popular vote, but they may be appointed, too. Delegates’ appointment or election details, including their qualifications, would have to be specified by Congress.
  • People’s Initiative – A petition must be filed by 12% of the registered voters. Of this number, every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters in every area.

Under Benitez’s proposal for a Constituent Assembly, Congress will be tasked to create a “Council of Elders” that would provide guidelines to lawmakers who will be drafting the constitutional amendments.

Benitez wants the Council of Elders to be composed of not less than 10 members from different sectors, like religious groups, non-governmental organizations, the urban poor, the business community, the academe, and former justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. 

“The revisions and/or amendments should be completed by Congress within one year after the Constituent Assembly is convened,” Benitez said. 

The congressman’s proposal comes after Davao del Norte First District Representative Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez filed a bill calling for a Con-Con to pave the way for federalism, one of Duterte’s priorities under his administration. 

Alvarez is the incoming House Speaker.

In his joint resolution, no member of Congress would be allowed to become a member of the Con-Con. The President will also be tasked to appoint 20 delegates. (READ: Alvarez eyes House Con-Con bill in September

Senate President Franklin Drilon filed a resolution for a Con-Con to review the 1987 Constitution as well.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella said on Monday afternoon that Duterte prefers the mode of Con-Con over Constituent Assembly to change the country’s form of government to federalism. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.