Congress eyes charter change working group, won’t wait for Con-Com

MANILA, Philippines – No time to waste.

Instead of waiting for the Constitutional Commission, Congress will form its own technical working group (TWG) to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution and pave the way for federalism. 

This is what the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed upon during their meeting on Wednesday, July 26, the day they finalized the 38 bills in their common legislative agenda. 

According to House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, they decided to form the TWG since President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to appoint people to the 25-member consultative body he created in December 2016.  

The body is supposed to study and recommend constitutional amendments to both houses of Congress, which will then approve, reject, or amend the suggestions. 

‘Di na [namin sila hihintayin]. Gagalaw na kami. Kasi ang revisions and amendments to the Constitution are actually functions of Congress naman. But dahil ang President may initiative, hinihintay namin sana siya, but it is a purely legislative function, the revision of the Constitution,” said Fariñas, Ilocos Norte 1st District representative.

(We won’t wait for them anymore. We will move already. Because making revisions and amendments to the Constitution are actually functions of Congress anyway. The President had an initiative and we wanted to wait for him, but it is purely a legislative function, the revision of the Constitution.)

Congress leaders are ironing out the details for the TWG, but it will be formed by either 6 or 12 legislators from each chamber. The TWG will recommend amendments to change the form of government to federalism, which will entail dividing the country into autonomous states.

The TWG, however, will be mandated to prioritize amendments that would support the new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, another priority of the 17th Congress for the next months. 

Kasi nga, ‘yung gusto ng kapatid nating mga Muslim ‘di puwedeng ipasok (Since what our Muslim brothers and sisters want could not be included) under the present Constitution, we will identify which constitutional provisions will be affected by this para ‘yun na ‘yung unahin na namin (so we will prioritize them),” said Fariñas. 

The TWG then will present its findings to the 17th Congress convened as a Constituent Assembly, one of the charter change modes allowed by the 1987 Constitution. 

Congress leaders, however, have not identified the timeline for charter change despite Duterte urging them to prioritze its passage during his 2nd State of the Nation Address. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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