MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to amend the Constitution through Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) instead of Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), saying Filipinos trust their senators enough for the system to work.
"Ako, I have trust na itong mga senador mga ano, maski anong sabihin niyo, pinili ng tao 'yan. That is the essence of democracy. We elect leaders," he said on Friday, July 29, in a military camp in Asuncion, Davao del Norte.
(Me, I trust that these senators, no matter what you say, were chosen by the people. That is the essence of democracy. We elect leaders.)
In a Constituent Assembly, the incumbent Congress becomes the body that will amend the Constitution.
Duterte said senators voted into position many times are likely trusted by the people, making them fit to carry out the big responsibility of amending the Constitution.
"Mga senador 'yan, ilang dekada na, means to say ang tao, may trust. Because you look at Con-Ass wth distrust," he said.
(These are senators for how many decades already, which means to say the people have trust in them. Because you look at Con-Ass with distrust.)
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.
Warning to abusive lawmakers
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.
But Duterte said a Con-Con would be too expensive.
"Ayaw ko mag Con-Con, bakit? Magastos. It will run into billions. Sa National Security Council pa, sabi ko, easily I’ll be spending like about P200, P300 billion. Napaka-sayang ng pera," he said.
(Why don't I want Con-Con? It's expensive. It will run into billions. In the National Security Council meeting, I said, easily I'll be spending like P200-P300 billion. What a waste of money.)
But critics of Con-Ass say this method of Charter Change will only empower corrupt lawmakers belonging to political dynasties to change the Constitution to fit their interests.
Duterte said there's one last line of defense should the process be corrupted: himself.
"Besides, I'll be there. Hindi ako tanga na papayag ako ng Constitution na anti-Filipino. 'Yan ang asahan ninyo (I'm not stupid that I will agree to a Constitution that's anti-Filipino. You can depend on that)," he said.
Duterte issued a warning to lawmakers who should abuse their power in Con-Ass.
"If worse comes to worst, e di alam nila ang mangyari sa kanila kung binastos nila ang Pilipino (They know what will happen to them if they insult the Filipino). I will not allow it," he said.
Because of this assurance, he said the Constitution the Con-Ass will come up with under his watch will be "responsive to the will of the people." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.