Con-ass cheaper than con-con, lawmaker says

THE government will spend P204 million on the proposed constitutional assembly aimed at amending the 1987 Constitution.

This is billions lesser than the earlier amount projected by the House leadership, according to constitutional amendments committee chair Roger Mercado.

"We have just discovered that if it's con-con (constitutional convention), we will spend P11 billion whereas in con-ass (constitutional or constituent assembly), we will only spend P204 million. Hindi yung sinabing P6 o P9 billion," Mercado said in a press conference on Monday, January 15.

"That's how economical and effective it is, if we will review our constitution through a constituent assembly," he added.

In a constitutional assembly, members of the House and Senate shall convene and decide the constitutional amendments themselves while in a constitutional convention, an election of legislative representatives is required.

Mercado gave updates on the status of the House Resolution No. 9 aimed at convening Congress into a constituent assembly.

"We are now in the period of interpellation," he said.

If the interpellation is finished within the day, members of the House at a plenary session can vote later in the day whether to approve the said resolution.

Mercado said opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan is wasting the time of the House of Representatives.

"Yun nga forgive me from saying but I think my counterpart in the Senate, Senator Pangilinan, forgive me from saying but he was just wasting our time and the money of our people," he said.

"Let us go ahead and convene already the constituent assembly and do our work," added the lawmaker.

Pangilinan is the head of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.

He earlier invited legal experts and sectoral representatives to share their views on charter change.

They will only start tackling the pros and cons of charter change on January 17 while the House will already come up with a decision this week.

Mercado also slammed the senators who said that the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately on charter change.

He cited Article XIV of the 1987 Section 1 of the Constitution which states that any amendment or revision of the Constitution may be proposed by Congress upon a vote of three fourths of all its members.

A number of senators including Senato Panfilo Lacson, Vicente Sotto III and those in the opposition believe that the House and the Senate should vote separately.

They also cited the Constitution as their basis for their claims.

"The provision under Article 17 is very clear, there is no need for any doubt or any interpretation," Mercado stressed.

The House panel on constitutional amendments will finalize on Tuesday the specific provisions that need to be discussed in the constituent assembly.

Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, during the press conference, also answered Senator Panfilo Lacson's statement calling some congressmen thick-skinned for using charter change to extend their term.

"I think he was probably referring to a no-el (no elections) scenario. The amendment to the Constitution and the shift of this government to a federal system is not intended to perpetrate ourselves in power," Hernandez said.

He said it's timely to amend the Constitution as it is part of the administration's campaign promises and the 1987 Constitution does not directly address the present situation in the government.

Hernandez said they are not afraid of elections.

The House leadership aims to convene immediately as a constituent assembly so that the public can vote for or against its adoption in the May 2019 barangay elections. (SunStar Philippines)
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