MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Charter change once again looms over the Philippines as lawmakers take the first steps toward shifting from a presidential to a federal form of government.
President Rodrigo Duterte is strongly supporting federalism, where the country is broken down into autonomous regions. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
At least 5 lawmakers in the 17th Congress filed bills or resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), one of 3 modes by which the 1987 Constitution can be amended.
The other two modes are through a Constituent Assembly, where Congress members themselves decide on the amendments, and a People’s Initiative.
The legislators calling for a Con-Con are presumptive House Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwen Garcia, Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Senator Juan Miguel Ziburi.
A Con-Con is a body of representatives that is distinct from the incumbent Congress. The delegates are usually elected through popular vote, but they may be appointed as well.
Congress decides on the details of delegates’ qualifications, election or appointment, rules of procedure, and operational budget.
Under Alvarez’s House Concurrent Resolution Number 1, a delegate will be elected from every region in the country. No incumbent member of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines will become a Con-Con delegate.
The President will also appoint another 20 delegates, "all of whom shall possess the same qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives at the very least and shall be lawyers who are considered experts or are well-versed in constitutional law.”
That’s a total of 38 Con-Con delegates.
If a delegate is previously holding public office, he or she shall be considered resigned once he or she files a certificate of candidacy or upon appointment to the Con-Con. He or she may also not represent any group or organization in any sector.
The provisions are the same with those under the Con-Con resolution filed by Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Garcia, meanwhile, is proposing through House Bill (HB) Number 312, or the “Constitutional Convention Act of 2016,” that all delegates of the Con-Con be elected by the people.
She said the individual qualifications of every delegate “shall be the same as those of a Member of the House of Representatives.”
She is proposing that the Con-Con be composed of 107 delegates from the following regions:
Con-Con delegates shall be elected through the manual system on the second Monday in January 2017. Elections shall follow the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code.
Garcia did not mention, however, if incumbent Congress members may be among those elected to the Con-Con.
Under Arroyo’s HB Number 486, a hybrid Con-Con would be called.
Both the Upper House and the Lower House would separately select 12 lawmakers from their members to join the Con-Con. Their posts will not be considered vacated upon their election into the Con-Con.
Ten days after these 24 legislators-turned-Con-Con members are selected, the President must pass an executive order appointing 24 individuals from different sectors to complete the 48-member Con-Con.
The 24 delegates appointed by the President “shall be of recognized probity, independence, nationalism, and patriotism,” and shall be subject to the same qualifications as any Lower House member.
If any of them hold elective or appointed positions in government, they will be considered resigned.
Arroyo wants the Con-Con to be given a budget of P700 million.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri wants the Con-Con to be composed of 100 delegates – 5 from the National Capital Region, 81 from the other provinces, and 14 appointed by the President.
The 86 delegates will be elected through popular vote alongside the barangay elections in October of thes year.
To qualify to run for the Con-Con, a delegate hopeful must be a natural-born Filipino and must at least be 25 years old on election day. All delegates must be registered voters and residents of the province or region they wish to represent. Delegates must be able to read and write as well.
Any candidate who filed a certificate of candidacy (COC) for the May 2016 polls, regardless of winning or losing in the elections, cannot be a part of the Con-Con.
The same rule applies to any person related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity with an incumbent elected official.
A person holding an appointed position in government-owned or -controlled operations may run as a Con-Con delegate, but he or she will be considered resigned upon filing his COC.
All delegates are not allowed to represent any group or organization and will not be eligible to run for public office in the first national and local elections to be held once the new Constitution is ratified.
Under Zubiri’s proposal, the Con-Con is expected to finish its proposal for a new Constitution within 36 months.
He proposes a budget of P1 billion for the Con-Con’s operation.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernie Abella said Duterte prefers the Con-Con over Constituent Assembly to change the country's system of government to federalism.
Should a Con-Con push through, how do you want to elect your delegates? Let us know below!
How do you want to elect your Con-Con delegates?
Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at email@example.com or tweet @maracepeda.