Duterte wants Constituent Assembly to amend Constitution – Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte now prefers incumbent legislators to amend the 1987 Constitution and shift to a federal system.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Thursday, July 28, that Duterte revealed his preference for a Constituent Assembly over a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting the night before.

“Last night, after the NSC meeting, there was a discussion [among the] President, Senate President [Aquilino Pimentel III], and Speaker, and [Budget] Secretary [Benjamin] Diokno. It was agreed that Congress will simply form into a Constituent Assembly to revise the present Constitution. It will be cheaper and faster,” said Alvarez during a Management Association of the Philippines forum. 

“'Wag ho kayong mag-alala. Under the leadership of President Duterte, your fears under Con-Ass (Constituent Assembly), wala po 'yun. We committed to do it for the country,” the House Speaker added.

(Don’t worry. Under the leadership of President Duterte, your fears under a Constituent Assembly, they will not be a problem. We committed to do it for the country.)

A Constituent Assembly is one of the 3 ways to amend the 1987 Constitution. The other two are Constitutional Convention and People's Initiative. A Constituent Assembly is the incumbent Congress turning itself into a body that amends the Constitution “upon a vote of 3/4 of all its members.”

Amendments passed by a Constituent Assembly are finalized once a majority of registered voters support them through a plebiscite. 

Duterte earlier preferred to call for a Con-Con, wherein a body separate from sitting legislators are either elected through popular vote or appointed to make the amendments. (READ: How do you want to elect your Con-Con delegates?)

Alvarez even filed his first House joint resolution calling for a Con-Con.

But now, the President has changed his mind because a Con-Con would cost about P6 billion to 7 billion.

The Duterte administration wants to ratify the new Constitution by the 2019 midterm elections. 

The period between 2019 to 2022, the end of Duterte’s term as president, will then serve as the transition period to a federal system.  

Under federalism, the country will be divided into autonomous regions or states, with the national government left to take care of matters with nationwide bearing like foreign policy and national security. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? The pros and cons of making the shift)

Alvarez said on Thursday that Duterte wants the federal Republic of the Philippines to have 11 to 12 autonomous states, with poorer regions merged with richer regions. (READ: How many states should PH have under federalism?)

In his State of the Nation Address, Duterte advised the Philippines to have a federal parliamentary form of government patterned after France.

Under this set-up, a bicameral Parliament elects a leader of the majority party or coalition called the prime minister, and they will be in charge of government policies.

Duterte, however, still wants Filipinos to elect their own president. 

He added that he is willing to step down from office if the 17th Congress is able to fast-track the switch to federalism. – 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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