MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Sunday, July 31, denied that there is an “inordinate fast-tracking” of charter change as President Rodrigo Duterte announced his preference to hold a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) rather than a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).
In a statement, the Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative hit Albay Representative Edcel Lagman’s claim that the “supermajority” in the House wanted to rush the shift to federalism. (READ: The problem with Con-Ass? Distrust in Congress)
“There’s no ‘inordinate fast-tracking,’ it’s simply practical and plain common sense,” Fariñas said.
A Con-Ass, he added, is a practical choice as expenses would amount to no more than P2 billion ($42.5 million), while electing Con-Con delegates alone would cost P6 billion to P7 billion ($127.6 million to $141 million).
“The salaries of the delegates, the complete personnel of the Convention, and the rental for the venue (seat) of the Convention would cost at least 10 times more than the election costs,” Fariñas pointed out.
Duterte initially wanted a Con-Con wherein a body aside from the sitting legislators are either elected through popular votes or appointed to make amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
In fact, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez already filed a House resolution calling for a Con-Con.
The projected expenses, however, made Duterte change his mind. (READ: Duterte wants Constituent Assembly to amend Constitution – Alvarez)
Fariñas said Duterte’s decision has nothing to do with who sits as House Minority Leader.
“The charter change initiative seeks to bring about comprehensive reforms in Philippine society. Congressman Lagman speaks out of turn when he insinuates that the Duterte administration has an ulterior motive in seeking charter change and shifting to federalism,” Fariñas said. “President Duterte has even said he would resign once the federal system has been set up.”
Fund other projects
Fariñas added that the money Congress would spend for a Con-Con can be used to fund other projects instead.
“Congress can earmark the estimated billions to be spent for a two-year Con-Con to other productive uses, such as education and health, or perhaps even mitigation of traffic congestion in Metro Manila,” he said.
Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said synchronizing the election for Con-Con delegates with the barangay polls later this year would cut costs. Preparations, however, would take longer.
“How many delegates will we elect? If it’s by district, then that’s going to be very expensive. You have to pay the salaries of the delegates and their staff, purchase vehicles,” Diokno said.
“You need to organize a separate secretariat, rent office space, buy office supplies and equipment. And you cannot predict a definite timetable as to when it can complete its work.” – Rappler.com
$1 = P47