THE House of Representatives formally received a copy of the draft federal constitution from the Consultative Committee (ConCom) on Wednesday, July 11.
According to House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, the working draft submitted by the panel, led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno is just "recommendatory," adding that it is only Congress that can propose amendments to the Constitution.
Fariñas, chair of the House committee on rules, said the House of Representatives will have to wait for the official transmittal of the draft from the President before they set things into motion.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he will endorse the ConCom's draft constitution en toto, except for changes in the transitory provisions.
These changes will be included in the draft Constitution to be submitted by the Office of the President to Congress.
Fariñas said that although the President's recommendation carries weight, Congress is not bound by it.
"Coming from the President, it carries weight. But congress is not bound by that," Fariñas said.
However, he added that since the President is the head of the ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), his endorsement of the ConCom's proposal might become a party matter.
"Siyempre mabigat ang weight noon dahil pagdating sa party we will have to support our president, siya ang titular head ng party e. And if we endorse that as a party matter, si speaker (Pantaleon Alvarez) secretary general, kami na mga PDP [members], it will become a party matter," Fariñas said.
Fariñas declined to state a timeline for the plenary deliberations on charter change.
He said the House has to study first the draft constitution.
"Titignan namin, babasahin namin. Magca-caucus kami. Kapag okay, trabahuhin namin. Then saka namin ibigay sa inyo ang aming timetable dahil sa ngayon, hindi pa namin nababasa," he said.
(We'll see. We'll read it first. We shall hold a caucus. If it is okay, we will work on it. Then we will give you a timeline. As of now, we have not read it.)
Alvarez, for his part believes that the conduct of the deliberations on the draft constitution could only be possible if the 2019 elections will be postponed.
"Kung ako tatanungin mo pag-aralan mo yung kalendaryo, Sona (State of the Nation Address) ibibigay sa amin yung NEP (National Expenditure Program), maybe yung draft na natapos ng ConCom so kailangan magdouble time kami dito para ayusin ang draft na yun at the same time maghi-hearing kame sa budget, NEP, tapos by October magfifile kami ng COC (Certificate of Candidacy) tapos magpapasko mahaba ng bakasyon so kailan kami babalik mga halos last week of January," Alvarez said.
(Look at the calendar. During the Sona, the NEP and the draft charter will be forwarded to us. We need to work on the draft charter double time while, at the same time, conduct budget hearings. By October, we will file our Certificates of Candidacy for the 2019 elections. They we will take a Christmas break and resume session perhaps in the last week of January.)
Alvarez also mentioned that the campaign period for the 2019 midterm elections will start in February.
He asked: "Paano tayo magka-quorum dito ano mangyayari syempre magkakampanya na yung mga congressmen. Election yan eh."
(How can we have a quorum? The congressmen will be out campaigning for the 2019 elections.)
"Kung gugustuhin talaga na matapos ito kasi kailangan mo ng focus dyan eh hindi pwedeng basta basta nalang," Alvarez added.
(If we really want to finish working on the charter, we would have to focus on it.) (SunStar Philippines)