Malilong: Erase the ConCon from the constitution

SO congressmen and senators will rewrite the constitution. The stakes are too high to entrust the task to ordinary persons. They can’t risk, for example, the possibility of some bright guys inserting a provision that would absolutely ban political dynasties, replacing the current limp equivalent that needs an enabling law which, unsurprisingly, Congress has obstinately refused to pass.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez will not acknowledge that, of course. The only reason they’re calling a constitutional assembly instead of a constitutional convention, we’re made to believe, is that the latter is expensive. Besides, a ConCon might work too slowly and they’re in a rush to shift to a federal form of government.

If a ConCon is expensive now (P19 billion supposedly), it will remain so next year, the next decade or anytime in the future when there is a need to amend or revise the constitution. So if expense be the main consideration in choosing the mode of amendment or revision, why don’t we just banish the ConCon from the pages of the constitution?

And why are we in such a haste to shift to federalism? Is the Republic in grave danger of disintegration unless we change our system of government immediately? Or is it because they do not want elections to be held in 2019? What is the hidden agenda behind no-el?

President Duterte does not like no-el, his spokesperson disclosed the other day. He wants the elections to proceed in 2019 and is committed to give the people the most honest and credible election yet. But, and here’s what is worrisome, if the constitution is ratified before 2019, then there will be no more need for an election that year. That’s what the spokesperson said. Is this the point of the whole exercise, rush the ratification of the constitution to stop the holding of the election?

The House will, without doubt, approve the draft of the revised charter earlier than the Senate will. It’s not a matter of if but when to pass it in both houses but the Senate pace will be much slower not necessarily because, according to Pimentel (or was it JV Ejercito?), they are a thinking house or because, as Alvarez claims, they are slowpokes. Rather, it is because the Senate has in comparison to the House, a proportionately bigger number of opposition members and Pimentel has, to his credit, consistently allowed them to to participate fully in the discussions instead of railroading the proceedings.

Besides, Pimentel, who is a bar topnotcher, obviously realizes the extreme importance of their self-imposed duty to amend the constitution even if he is personally convinced and has in fact campaigned that the federal form of government be adopted. He will not do anything that will give the impression that they’re moving with undue haste in performing what is supposed to be a solemn task.

Which is probably why Pimentel proposed that the plebiscite to ratify the new constitution be held in May next year, simultaneously with the elections. The proposal will surely not sit well with Alvarez and it would be interesting to see who’s going to blink first in the event of a direct confrontation.

Of course, everything depends on Mr. Duterte to whom Pimentel and Alvarez owe their positions. If he sides with the Senate president, it’s a go for next year’s elections. If he endorses Alvarez’s position, it can only mean that he favors no-el and his spokesperson lied the other day.
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