Draft constitution: After submission to Duterte, then what?

Pia Ranada
Draft constitution: After submission to Duterte, then what?


The Consultative Committee's draft constitution is just one step in a long arduous process towards revising the Constitution and shifting to a federal system of government

MANILA, Philippines – It’s all-systems-go for the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) to submit its approved draft federal constitution to President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 9. (READ: Highlights of Consultative Committee’s draft constitution)

But even after the submission, there is still a long way to go before it can be said that the Philippines has shifted to a federal system of government and amended the 1987 Constitution. (READ: What you need to know about Charter Change)

Even the draft the Con-Com will submit to Duterte can change, as the President and Malacañang give their own inputs, and as the Con-Com gathers recommendations and comments from its upcoming regional consultations.

Here’s a timeline of what to expect after the ceremonial submission:

Monday, July 9 – Con-Com draft is submitted to Duterte.

July 10 – July 22 – Duterte and other Malacañang officials review Con-Com draft and submit inputs to the Con-Com, if any. 

July to August – Con-Com conducts regional consultations, inputs from which may also be added to the draft constitution.

July 23 (State of the Nation Address) – If inputs are successfully incorporated in the draft, Duterte is expected to endorse the document to Congress during his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA).

August 19 – Con-Com is dissolved. Any changes to its draft are finalized.

Onwards – Congress keeps the draft as it finalizes the mode of revising the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

If Con-Ass, as is currently the preferred method, the Congress deadlock on separate or joint voting must also be resolved.

Once there is an agreement on these issues, Congress will have to decide what to do with the Con-Com draft – adopt it in its entirety, use parts of it for its own draft, or junk it altogether.

May 2019 – This is Con-Com Chairman Reynato Puno’s and former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III’s recommended date for a plebiscite – when Filipinos can directly vote for or against the draft constitution. 

Onwards – If the plebiscite results in a majority vote for a new constitution, the new charter is deemed ratified and its transitory provisions take effect. As in the Con-Com’s draft, there will likely be a transition commission that will convene soon after the plebiscite.

June 30, 2022 – Duterte’s and Vice President Leni Robredo’s terms expire if the ratified constitution includes the Con-Com’s current transitory provisions which states there will be no term extension for the two officials. It also states that the transitory commission’s work ends on this date.

May 2022 – If the Con-Com’s current transitory provisions are included in the ratified constitution, elections for new officials under the new constitution will take place this month.

Status in Congress

The Senate and House committees on constitutional amendments are studying various proposals for revisions to the constitution. But no progress can be made until the two chambers resolve the deadlock: vote separately or jointly in a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass)?

The House has already called for Con-Ass, a cheapter and faster method because it requires only sitting lawmakers to convene as a body with the function of amending the Constitution.

Con-Con is costlier as it requires the election of representatives all over the country that will gather to vote on amendments to the Constitution.

The House wants Con-Ass but the Senate refuses because of a vagueness in the wording of the section of the current charter.

In the 1987 Constitution, Congress, sitting as a Constituent Assembly, can approve charter change “upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.” It doesn’t state if the House and Senate are to vote separately or jointly. The Senate rejects Con-Ass if it will be done through joint voting because this would render their votes useless. There are only 23 senators compared to the nearly 300 members of the House.

In January, leaders of both chambers met and agreed to first review the current Constitution. House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas had said then, “Once we agree on the [proposed government structure and other Constitutional provisions], we will then discuss the manner of doing it.”

Senators, however, expect the issue on separate or joint voting to be brought to the Supreme Court. 

Charter change is one of Congress’ top priorities this year. The shift to a federal system of government has been Duterte’s battlecry since he was Davao City mayor.

However, A March 2018 Social Weather Stations survey found that less than half of Filipinos support a shift to federalism while only one out of 4 even know what the system of government is.

The shift to federalism would cost P44 billion to P72 billion, according to government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.