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(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

DUTERTE PUSHES CON-ASS; POLL SAYS, 37% IN FAVOR OF CHA-CHA (44% AGAINST)
[RELATED: Lawmakers cross party lines for Charter change]


AUGUST 2 -Pres Rodrigo Roa Duterte answer questions in an ambush interview with Malacañang press after a mass oath taking ceremony by PRRD’s apointees held in Malacañang Palace, August 1, 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC  PRESIDENT Duterte is pushing for Charter change (Cha-cha) through a constituent assembly (Con-ass) despite findings of a nationwide survey that Cha-cha supporters are outnumbered by those opposing constitutional amendments. In light of the Pulse Asia survey, however, several senators said public sentiment must be taken into account while efforts to spread awareness about moves to change the Constitution should be pursued. In the Pulse Asia survey, 44 percent said the Constitution should not be amended, while 37 percent were in favor of amending it. Nineteen percent were undecided. The survey, conducted on July 2-8, covered 1,200 respondents and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. Asked what concerns should the Duterte administration address immediately, a mere 7 percent said amending the 1987 Constitution was a priority. Even so, Mr. Duterte is pushing for a shift to a federal-parliamentary form of government from the current unitary-presidential form, which means changing the Constitution itself and not just amending specific provisions. He favors a Con-ass, composed of members of Congress, over a constitutional convention (Con-con) because of the higher cost associated with the latter mode of changing the fundamental law of the land. READ MORE...RELATED, Lawmakers cross party lines for Charter change...

ALSO: Con-Com - Alvarez asks Rody: Form 'council of wise men' for cha-cha
[RELATED: Alvarez: Information campaign may urge Filipinos to support cha-cha]


AUGUST 2 -President Rodrigo Duterte (center) shakes hands with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez before delivering his first State of the Nation Address at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa. Also in the photo is Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said that he will ask President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission. Alvarez said that forming a constitutional commission composed of 20 to 25 constitutional law experts would address the issue of competency. The House Speaker reacted to comments that some members of the Congress are not competent enough to form a constituent assembly. "I don't think that is fair, 'yung comment na 'yun. There are a lot of competent persons in Congress. Hindi naman lahat siguro pero majority naman. We have been elected by the people so kung walang tiwala ang taumbayan wala sana kami dyan," Alvarez said in an interview on ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday morning. To address the issue of competency, Alvarez said that it would be better if the president would appoint constitutional experts from the academe and non-governmental organizations to the commission. "If we are afraid that some congressmen are incompetent to amend or to do the revision of our present Constitution, electing delegates to the constitutional convention is not a guarantee that we will be electing the right people," Alvarez said. READ MORE...RELATED, Alvarez: Information campaign may urge Filipinos to support cha-cha...

ALSO Duterte to Congress: Don’t mess with Charter
[Rody: ‘Trust me on Cha-cha’]


AUGUST 5 -Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the 17th Congress Monday, July 25, 2016, at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Applauding at left is Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel and at right is House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. AP/Bullit Marquez
‘Trust me on Cha-cha’  MANILA, Philippines - As doubts persist over the wisdom of Charter change and the motives of the people behind it, President Duterte has appealed to the people to trust him to ensure the integrity of the endeavor even as he warned lawmakers against messing with the Constitution. Speaking with The STAR the other day at Malacañang, he said he has this message for Congress: “Don’t f*** with the Constitution.”  If they mess with Charter change, he said later, he would shut down Congress and have members arrested. The Senate and the House of Representatives are gearing up to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to work on changing the Constitution, in preparation for a shift to a federal form of government. Duterte has said he is also open to a constitutional commission or con-com where he will appoint the delegates, but he said he would consult the Senate about it. Some quarters have raised concerns a con-ass mode of changing the Constitution would enable some lawmakers to fortify their hold on power and advance their vested interests. But Duterte said this won’t be possible under his watch. “So I need your trust,” he told delegates of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting last Wednesday at Malacañang. “At least, believe in me, I will be the last one to agree to anything there that would destroy our country. And even in the aspect of money,” he stressed. “The only reason I won is that I carried the right message. I have to stop corruption. Now I’m telling you, it will really be a clean government. For the nth time, I’m telling you that,” Duterte added. “Besides, we are all Filipinos. Why would I embrace principles that would do – which are against our country? Leave them, in the end, the outcome (of debates) will have to be submitted to us for a plebiscite and for all the time that they’d be crafting a new Constitution, I am here,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: House to designate 12 deputy speakers for federalism dry run
[RELATED: Safeguards to be in place for Cha-cha]


AUGUST 5 -PLENARY HALL To practice the federal system of government, the House of Representatives will implement a dry run by designating 12 deputy speakers representing the regions of the country. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, file To practice the federal system of government, the House of Representatives will implement a dry run by designating 12 deputy speakers representing the regions of the country. House Majority Leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said this is in line with President Duterte’s concept of federalism, where provinces and regions may be lumped together and/or subdivided into federal states for purposes of fiscal autonomy. “Since the Duterte administration is into federalism, we looked at the possible creation of the states, our federal states and they (his House colleagues) came up with 12,” Fariñas told reporters. “This will also be a trial balloon to see how we can work with it,” he said. Fariñas was referring to the caucus held Tuesday by members of the super majority coalition under the ruling PDP-Laban party led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Currently, there are five deputy speakers – Raneo Abu of Batangas, Romero Quimbo of Marikina, Eric Singson of Ilocos Sur, Fredenil Castro of Capiz and Mercedez Alvarez of Negros Occidental. A deputy speaker for the party-list groups may also be in the offing. Traditionally and by practice, the House leadership designates a total of six deputy speakers – with two each representing archipelagic islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and this has always been the maximum number. “So, perhaps we could try if it is viable here in the House to divide ourselves into 12 states and then politically we can assess the grouping and everything, for a more efficient harnessing and coordination of members,” Fariñas explained. To start with, there can be one from northern Luzon, comprising the Regions 1, 2 and 3; one from Central Luzon; one from Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, Bicol region; three from the Visayas (eastern, central and western) and three or four from Mindanao (northern, southern, central). READ MORE...RELATED, Safeguards to be in place for Cha-cha...

ALSO: CONGRESS LEADERS TO MEET ON CHACHA
[Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said senators are amenable to revisiting the Constitution but many remain apprehensive to shifting to a federal form of government. Pimentel said any move to shift to federalism will be “bloody” because senators would put up a good fight during debates.]


AUGUST 5 -HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER FARIÑAS -LEADERS of the two chambers of Congress will meet on Tuesday to try to reach a consensus on how they will vote on the proposed changes to the Constitution if both Chambers will sit jointly to exercise its constituent powers.
House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas said congressmen will accede to the wish of senators if they will insist on voting separately on the proposal to shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government. Fariñas said the meeting, which will be attended by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, will establish clear boundaries since the process of changing the Constitution is a tedious one. He said Congress leaders may discuss the issue first and report to their chambers before a final decision is made. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, earlier said the Supreme Court will have to decide if the House of Representatives and the Senate will vote jointly or separately since the Constitution is silent on how the voting should be done. Article XVII, Sec. 1 of the Constitution provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.” If the voting will be done jointly, Congress will need 238 votes of all members (293 congressmen and 24 senators). If they will vote separately, the House will need 220 votes while the Senate will have to secure the support of 18 members. Lagman has said he would personally file a petition to resolve the issue if no one will elevate it to the SC. However, he said will no longer object if the voting will be undertaken jointly since he believes the two chambers become one when congressmen and senators sit as a Constituent Assembly (con-ass), the mode that President Duterte prefers in amending the Charter. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Duterte pushes Con-ass; BUT ONLY 37% FAVOR CHA-CHA, SAYS POLL


Pres Rodrigo Roa Duterte answer questions in an ambush interview with Malacañang press after a mass oath taking ceremony by PRRD’s apointees held in Malacañang Palace, August 1, 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, AUGUST 8, 2016 (INQUIRER) By: Inquirer Research, Leila B. Salaverria, Tarra Quismundo @inquirerdotnet
12:00 AM August 2nd, 2016 - PRESIDENT Duterte is pushing for Charter change (Cha-cha) through a constituent assembly (Con-ass) despite findings of a nationwide survey that Cha-cha supporters are outnumbered by those opposing constitutional amendments.

In light of the Pulse Asia survey, however, several senators said public sentiment must be taken into account while efforts to spread awareness about moves to change the Constitution should be pursued.

In the Pulse Asia survey, 44 percent said the Constitution should not be amended, while 37 percent were in favor of amending it. Nineteen percent were undecided.

The survey, conducted on July 2-8, covered 1,200 respondents and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

Asked what concerns should the Duterte administration address immediately, a mere

7 percent said amending the 1987 Constitution was a priority.

Even so, Mr. Duterte is pushing for a shift to a federal-parliamentary form of government from the current unitary-presidential form, which means changing the Constitution itself and not just amending specific provisions.

He favors a Con-ass, composed of members of Congress, over a constitutional convention (Con-con) because of the higher cost associated with the latter mode of changing the fundamental law of the land.

READ MORE...

In a Con-con, delegates are elected by the electorate and given funds to carry out their work.

Contempt for Con-ass

Defending his preferred mode of introducing the changes to the Constitution, Mr. Duterte on Monday said nobody could make sweeping generalizations about the competence of lawmakers, who would be proposing a new Constitution through a Con-ass.

He said he sensed “contempt” for the proposed Con-ass. But he said that even if several of the lawmakers were corrupt, this did not mean the same description would apply to all.

“You cannot make a sweeping statement that people cannot trust these guys to make a good Constitution, to craft a new one that would serve this generation because many of them had been elected time and again,” he said.

Many of the lawmakers have been serving the government for decades and have been chosen by the people probably because they are good, according to the President.

-----------------------------------

RELATED FROM ABS-CBN (EARLIER REPORT - JULY 4, 2016)

Lawmakers cross party lines for Charter change RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News Posted at Jul 04 2016 05:36 PM


Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Frank Drilon and Vilma Santos Recto. ABS-CBN News

CON-CON

MANILA - Former President and Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has filed House Concurrent Resolution 1 of the Senate and House, calling for a constitutional convention, and House Bill 486 implementing this proposal.

Under the proposal, the constitutional convention will be composed of 12 incumbent senators and 12 incumbent congressmen as well as 24 delegates appointed by the President from various sectors.

The President will promulgate an executive order to determine the composition of the appointive delegates. Any appointee of the President who is also an incumbent official shall be deemed resigned and shall not be qualified to run for public office until the adjournment of the convention.

Within 120 days from its first session, the Con-con will submit the revised Constitution to the president who shall fix the date for the plebiscite within 60 days from submission.

Allies of former President Benigno Aquino III are among the first to propose amendments.

At the Senate, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said a change in the form of government will be the major and most important task of the Constitutional convention (Con-con) being eyed to review the Constitution. Drilon earlier filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1 that calls for a convention to propose amendments to, or revision of, the 1987 Constitution.

Under the RBH No. 1, the delegates to the Convention will be elected on the second Monday of May 2017, in accordance with the provisions of existing elections laws, rules and regulations.

They shall be elected by administrative region based on the number of legislative districts in such region, the resolution said.

In a DZMM interview, Drilon said, "Ngayon ang ibig ko lang bigyan ng diin, yung form of government yun po ay pag-uusapan hindi po sa kung saan man, kundi ang mag-decide niyan ay ang mga delegado sa constitutional convention …sa kampanya ng mga delegado, kanila pong ipapaliwanag sa publiko para saan ba sila, para sa federal o para sa presidential para pagpili ng taumbayan, makikita na nila kung saan patungo yung mga delegado na kanilang hinalal. Yuon po ang isa sa maganda diyan, para malaman na natin kung ano ba talaga ang sa puso ng taumbayan, kaya ang paguusap doon sa Con-con."

Drilon said a Constitutional convention will provide a venue for free expression of ideas as the discussions will not be limited.

ECONOMIC CHANGES

At the Lower House, Drilon's party-mate, Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte, renewed his proposal to amend the Constitution to lift restrictive economic provisions.

"In order to realize the full benefit of inclusive growth, the restrictive economic provisions in the Philippine Constitution, which hamper the flow of foreign capital investments, must be lifted," said Belmonte in filing Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2.

Under Belmonte's proposal, the constitutional amendments will be done by the Senate and the House of Representatives, by a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, each House voting separately, and pursuant to Article XVII of the Constitution, to propose amendments to Articles XII, XIV and XVI of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (CON-ASS)

Separately, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez proposed to convene the House of Representatives and the Senate into a Constituent Assembly to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution, including the shift to a federal form of government.

In House Joint Resolution No. 2, Benitez said a Constituent Assembly is the most prompt and least expensive mode to amend Charter to change the form of government to federalism, among others.

Benitez said, in the Constituent Assembly he is proposing, "Congress will create a 'Council of Elders' to serve as council of experts to provide inputs to Congress in drafting the revisions to the Constitution. The Council of Elders shall be composed of not less than 10 members from different sectors including but not limited to religious, non-government organizations, urban poor, business, academe, and former justices."

Another proposal comes from Rep. Gwendolyn "Gwen" Garcia (3rd District, Cebu City) who filed House Bill 312 or the proposed "Constitutional Convention Act of 2016," which details the following:

- composition, qualifications, appointment, and election of Constitutional Convention delegates;
- conduct of Con-Con delegates' election, rules and regulations;
- opening session and election of the President of the Con-Con;
- organization of the Con-Con, the rules of procedure, the Con-Con budget;
- parliamentary immunity of Con-Con delegates; and,
- Con-Con appropriations.

House Bill 312 provides the Constitutional convention, referred to as the Convention, shall be composed of 107 delegates, whose individual qualifications shall be the same as those of a Member of the House of Representatives. The election of delegates shall be held on the second Monday of January 2017.

The election of delegates shall be conducted under the Manual System (not the automated) and shall be governed by the provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 or the "Omnibus Election Code, as amended."

The Constitutional Convention shall be convened for its Opening Session on the first Monday of March 2017 at 10 a.m., at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House shall jointly preside at the Opening Session and shall proceed to the election of the President of the Convention.

The sum of P300 million shall be appropriated for the holding of the election of Convention delegates out of any funds in the National Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and another sum of P500 million for the budget necessary for the operation of the Convention.

ATE VI ON CHA-CHA

Charter change was also discussed by neophyte lawmakers at the sidelines of the executive course on legislation.

Over 40 neophytes comprised the 3rd and final batch of lawmakers, among them, celebrity lawmaker Vilma Santos Recto of Lipa City.

Santos-Recto said she has yet to study the proposal for Charter change and a shift to a federal form of government.

"Saka ko na pag-uusapan yun pag na-prepare ko na, nakapag-aral pa ako, mas mabuti on what to do depende sa sitwasyon natin. Siguro that's the only time pwede ako maglatag ng anything concrete na pwede ko tayuan at ipaglaban. Pero as of now, I'm still trying to learn more," she said .

She added: "Marami pa tayong dapat pag-aralan. It's not that easy. Maski naman sila sinasabi maraming dapat pag-aralan pag pinag-usapan natin ang pederalismo."


PHILSTAR

Alvarez urges Duterte to form 'council of wise men' for charter change By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated August 2, 2016 - 1:09pm 2 7 googleplus0 0


President Rodrigo Duterte (center) shakes hands with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez before delivering his first State of the Nation Address at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa. Also in the photo is Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday said that he will ask President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission.

Alvarez said that forming a constitutional commission composed of 20 to 25 constitutional law experts would address the issue of competency.

The House Speaker reacted to comments that some members of the Congress are not competent enough to form a constituent assembly.

"I don't think that is fair, 'yung comment na 'yun. There are a lot of competent persons in Congress. Hindi naman lahat siguro pero majority naman. We have been elected by the people so kung walang tiwala ang taumbayan wala sana kami dyan," Alvarez said in an interview on ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday morning.

To address the issue of competency, Alvarez said that it would be better if the president would appoint constitutional experts from the academe and non-governmental organizations to the commission.

"If we are afraid that some congressmen are incompetent to amend or to do the revision of our present Constitution, electing delegates to the constitutional convention is not a guarantee that we will be electing the right people," Alvarez said.

READ MORE...

The House leader noted that businessmen may support their preferred candidates to be elected as delegates to the convention.

"Will the delegates to be elected in the convention also be guided by common good if they will be elected, financed by businessmen also? All elections need money to win. Hindi naman lahat ng competent people meron ganoon kalaking pera para gastahin sa kampanya," Alvarez said.

Alvarez listed retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., San Beda College of Law Dean Ranhilio Aquino, former Cagayan de Oro Mayor Reuben Canoy and Ateneo Law School Dean Emeritus Joaquin Bernas as possible members of the constitutional commission.

The proposed constitutional commission will be directed to study and draft the revised Constitution while the Congress is still deliberating on the 2017 budget, Alvarez said.

"By first quarter next year tapos na po sila sa trabaho nila then pwede na 'yung Congress to constitute ourselves into an assembly and this draft will be submitted to the constituent assembly for further deliberation and debate," the House Speaker explained.

The members of the constitutional commission will be present before Congress deliberations on the draft revised Constitution to defend their proposal.

The commission may start drafting the revised Constitution if Duterte issues the executive order this month.

After debating and deliberating on the provisions, the Congress eyes to conduct a massive information drive regarding the amendment of the Constitution.

A plebiscite for the revised Constitution will be held at the same time as the midterm elections on 2019 after the massive information drive, the speaker said.

Meanwhile, Duterte expressed his preference of forming a constituent assembly as a mode of changing the Constitution.

"I thought that a constitutional convention would be more in keeping with the constitutional promise that the people would really believe in and would trust," Duterte said.

Under the 1987 Constitution, there are three modes to amend the Charter: constituent convention, constitutional assembly and people’s initiative.

RELATED: Rody defends con-ass; House eyes con-com

---------------------------

RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Alvarez: Information campaign may urge Filipinos to support cha-cha By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated August 2, 2016 - 2:40pm 1 0 googleplus0 0


House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says he will propose to President Rodrigo Duterte to form a constitutional commission that will draft the revised Constitution. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, File

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez remains hopeful that Filipinos will support the proposed amendment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution despite a recent survey showing that more Filipinos oppose it.

A recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia showed that 44 percent of Filipinos do not favor charter change proposals while 37 percent support the amendment of the Constitution.

READ: Pulse Asia: 44% of Filipinos oppose charter change

The House Speaker said he is more encouraged by those who approve the amendment rather than discouraged by those who are not in favor of a charter change.

"I'm encouraged by the (37) percent that approves that the charter shall be revised," Alvarez said in an interview with ANC's Headstart on Tuesday morning.

Alvarez also noted that more Filipinos would support changing the Constitution from the presidential system to a federal-parliamentary form of government if they would get more information.

"Konting kampanya lang ito pwedeng ma-hit yung 80 percent, 90 percent. It's only a question of explaining to the people, especially the regions," Alvarez said.

The House Speaker added that he would propose to President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission.

The proposed commission will be composed of at least constitutional law experts that will draft the revised Constitution while the Congress is deliberating on the 2017 national budget.


PHILSTAR

Duterte to Congress: Don’t mess with Charter By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 5, 2016 - 1:00am 13 1481 googleplus0 0


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the 17th Congress Monday, July 25, 2016, at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Applauding at left is Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel and at right is House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. AP/Bullit Marquez

‘Trust me on Cha-cha’

MANILA, Philippines - As doubts persist over the wisdom of Charter change and the motives of the people behind it, President Duterte has appealed to the people to trust him to ensure the integrity of the endeavor even as he warned lawmakers against messing with the Constitution.

Speaking with The STAR the other day at Malacañang, he said he has this message for Congress: “Don’t f*** with the Constitution.”

If they mess with Charter change, he said later, he would shut down Congress and have members arrested.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are gearing up to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to work on changing the Constitution, in preparation for a shift to a federal form of government.

Duterte has said he is also open to a constitutional commission or con-com where he will appoint the delegates, but he said he would consult the Senate about it.

Some quarters have raised concerns a con-ass mode of changing the Constitution would enable some lawmakers to fortify their hold on power and advance their vested interests. But Duterte said this won’t be possible under his watch.

“So I need your trust,” he told delegates of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting last Wednesday at Malacañang.

“At least, believe in me, I will be the last one to agree to anything there that would destroy our country. And even in the aspect of money,” he stressed.

“The only reason I won is that I carried the right message. I have to stop corruption. Now I’m telling you, it will really be a clean government. For the nth time, I’m telling you that,” Duterte added.

“Besides, we are all Filipinos. Why would I embrace principles that would do – which are against our country? Leave them, in the end, the outcome (of debates) will have to be submitted to us for a plebiscite and for all the time that they’d be crafting a new Constitution, I am here,” he said.

READ MORE...

His appeal came on the heels of a Pulse Asia survey showing about 40 percent of Filipinos against the administration’s tinkering with the present Constitution.

In assuring the public, Duterte also stressed he has no ambition to prolong his stay in power.

Although he has no problem with constitutional convention as a mode of changing the Constitution, the 71-year-old Duterte said a con-ass would be a better alternative as it is cheaper.

“I have no further (political) ambition… because I have reached, sagad na (the limit). As I have said, if you can amend the Constitution and you can do it in three to four years and you can elect a new president under a parliament like France, I will willingly give up the remaining years of my term and go out. Walang drama, wala lahat. Magre-retire na ako (No drama, I’ll just retire),” he said.

He added his main concern is pursuing the interests of the people.

“So do not be afraid of whatever method that they would use because your guarantee is ako (me). I will never, never allow… Sabihin ko talaga sila: ’Wag ’yan. Kasi ’pag pinilit ninyo ’yan, sasarahan ko itong Congress. Huhulihin ko kayong lahat (I’ll really tell them not that, if you insist I’ll close Congress and have you arrested),’” the President said.

But he pointed out the lawmakers are elected by the people and can be trusted.

“We should not be too judgmental about the members of Congress. You can tell by the track records that they have. They have been elected, reelected, took a break (from politics) then reelected again. If you think about the acceptability of the people, who are we to judge that they are not competent?”

In Legazpi City, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said only by overhauling the 1987 Constitution can the government address the issues that hamper the push for a “Philippine style” federalism.


ALVAREZ

“We need a total revision of our present Constitution so that we can design a federal form of government suited for the needs of our people,” Alvarez told reporters after swearing into the PDP-Laban at least 500 elected local officials.

He emphasized any effort to revise the Constitution must involve the participation of every sector of Philippine society.

“We must create an independent body to be composed of people with unquestionable credibility coming from the various sectors of our society. All sectors of society must be involved. It must be an inclusive (group),” Alvarez said

He also batted for a massive education drive about federalism and the need to change the Constitution to achieve such end so that the people would have an informed decision when a referendum on the matter is held.

He said a federal system must not only consider territory and population, but economic viability.

“It is not fair if progressive towns and cities would be clustered together as a federal state and neglect those poor areas,” Alvarez pointed out.

Con-con redundant

At the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said assembling a constitutional convention for purposes of amending the 1987 Constitution is just like having a twin Congress, which can be real costly as it would involve electing 200 representatives. There are currently 293 House members and 24 senators.

Holding a con-con election itself might even cost the government around P7 billion, he said.

Another House leader, Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo of Marikina, agreed with Fariñas, saying he is not inclined to support con-con as it would be a “duplication of what Congress is today.”

Fariñas described moves by members of the so-called House independent bloc “inaction by paralysis” since amendments to the Charter can only be made by a two-thirds vote which they themselves could not even muster.

“The fastest way to do it is con-ass (constituent assembly), because we already comprise those delegates. We are 293 congressmen here, we represent the whole country,” he said.

He reassured the public that as legislators, all they can do is just to raise proposals either for amendments or revisions to the 29-year-old Charter, adding members of the super majority coalition are set to meet on Aug. 9 to resume deliberations on the issue.

“Congress cannot amend or revise the Constitution. We cannot even change a comma or period without the people’s approval. All we can do is to provide a proposal for your approval,” he pointed out.

“We have to come up with something that will be acceptable to the people,” Fariñas said.

He also raised the possibility of the House suspending its law-making function while deliberating on Charter change.

“We may have to stop the legislative mill. Why? Because we are already rewriting our Constitution. We might as well stop legislation first. If we are talking about divorce, death penalty, then what if these may all be excluded in the next Constitution?” he asked.

He explained it may just be pointless to hold legislative sessions in the current 17th Congress while there are discussions to change the fundamental law of the land.

“So let’s stop making laws. We have so many laws, and it won’t kill us if we stop making new ones. We can do it every other week – legislative power, then constituent power,” he said. – Delon Porcalla, Cet Dematera


PHILSTAR

House to designate 12 deputy speakers for federalism dry run By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 5, 2016 - 12:00am 4 5 googleplus0 2


PLENARY HALL To practice the federal system of government, the House of Representatives will implement a dry run by designating 12 deputy speakers representing the regions of the country. Philstar.com/AJ Bolando, file

MANILA, Philippines - To practice the federal system of government, the House of Representatives will implement a dry run by designating 12 deputy speakers representing the regions of the country.

House Majority Leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said this is in line with President Duterte’s concept of federalism, where provinces and regions may be lumped together and/or subdivided into federal states for purposes of fiscal autonomy.

“Since the Duterte administration is into federalism, we looked at the possible creation of the states, our federal states and they (his House colleagues) came up with 12,” Fariñas told reporters.

“This will also be a trial balloon to see how we can work with it,” he said.

Fariñas was referring to the caucus held Tuesday by members of the super majority coalition under the ruling PDP-Laban party led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Currently, there are five deputy speakers – Raneo Abu of Batangas, Romero Quimbo of Marikina, Eric Singson of Ilocos Sur, Fredenil Castro of Capiz and Mercedez Alvarez of Negros Occidental.

A deputy speaker for the party-list groups may also be in the offing.

Traditionally and by practice, the House leadership designates a total of six deputy speakers – with two each representing archipelagic islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and this has always been the maximum number.

“So, perhaps we could try if it is viable here in the House to divide ourselves into 12 states and then politically we can assess the grouping and everything, for a more efficient harnessing and coordination of members,” Fariñas explained.

To start with, there can be one from northern Luzon, comprising the Regions 1, 2 and 3; one from Central Luzon; one from Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, Bicol region; three from the Visayas (eastern, central and western) and three or four from Mindanao (northern, southern, central).

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There have also been proposals to include the Bangsamoro, Tausugs and others in Mindanao.

The most “problematic areas,” according to Fariñas, are those that are geographically aligned with Luzon but can be lumped together with either the Visayas or Mindanao – such as Palawan, the provinces of Mindoro and Marinduque.

There will be efforts to “re-group” what provinces or islands should be banded together so that the poor local government units will not suffer, especially since richer LGUs can always thrive even with little support from the national government.

“We will no longer abide by the political boundaries because the apprehensions of many people were some LGUs may not survive, or those states may not survive. So you have to regroup them in such a way that there will be rich and poor states,” Fariñas explained.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, however, stressed the need to strengthen local government units (LGUs) before shifting the country to the federal system.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the federal system of government is not a cure all to the problems of the nation.

He said federalism is “not the only step after devolution, but it is the next logical step if the Philippines chooses to further decentralize.”

Pimentel emphasized the need to further decentralize power from the national government down to the local government level in order to address many of the problems faced by the countryside.

“Clearly, the highly centralized and unitary system that we have had for more than a century has resulted in an imbalance in the distribution of resources among LGUs. And most importantly, it has hampered the speedy development of most areas in our country, particularly those in the countryside. This has to change,” he said.

The first step in decentralization was taken in 1990 when the Local Government Code was passed and certain powers of the national government were devolved to the LGUs.

“While some local governments failed to deliver on the promised development for one reason or another, nonetheless, by and large there has been a huge leap in the delivery of basic services to our people since the devolution of certain powers, finances and resources from the central government to the local governments,” he said.

Pimentel explained federalism is based on the principle that the smallest unit of government knows what is best for the needs of its constituents.

Atienza, for his part, said the government should strengthen the implementation of local autonomy to allow provinces, cities, towns and barangays to grow before transforming and grouping them into independent federal states.

“No president has ever implemented the full intentions of the present Constitution on local autonomy. This is why LGUs have been left wanting in development and continue to practically beg for funds, even though the Constitution already provides for it,” he said.

Atienza said local autonomy “guarantees self-rule, self-governance and independence for local government units.” – With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Safeguards to be in place for Cha-cha by Ben Rosario August 5, 2016 Share1 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share6

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez assured President Duterte yesterday that restrictions will be put in place to guarantee that Congress, acting as a constituent assembly (Con-Ass), will uphold the interest of Filipinos when it revises the Constitution and includes the shift to federalism.

This developed as Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman chided Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas for proposing the suspension of action on proposed legislative measures while the constituent assembly is tinkering with the Charter.

Describing the proposal as “ludicrous,” Lagman reminded Fariñas that it is his duty to push for the enactment of Malacañang’s priority legislative agenda.

Fariñas told the media that Congress will have to “stop the legislative mill” in order for Congress to concentrate on “rewriting the Constitution.”

“We might as well stop legislation first. If we are talking about divorce, death penalty, then what if these may all be excluded in the next Constitution?” stated Farinas.

RESTRICTIONS FOR CRAFTERS OF CONSTITUTION

Alvarez said he will support the imposition of restrictions that would bar crafters of the Constitution from taking advantage of the provisions they would approve.

On the other hand, Farinas said a constituent assembly is the “best insurance” that the proposed Charter changes will not be “messed up since a three-fourths vote of all members are required to make a proposed amendment or revision which is very hard to achieve.”

“It is a constitutional convention, like the one we had in 1971, that can mess up the Constitution as a simple majority vote of all its members is required to make its proposed revision,” explained Farinas.

Alvarez, on the other hand, said the restrictions will specifically be addressed to the “Council of Wisemen” which is a proposed 20-25 man panel that will study Charter provisions that would be amended and recommend them for approval by Congress, acting as a constituent assembly.”


MALAYA

CONGRESS LEADERS TO MEET ON CHACHA By WENDELL VIGILIA August 05, 2016

LEADERS of the two chambers of Congress will meet on Tuesday to try to reach a consensus on how they will vote on the proposed changes to the Constitution if both Chambers will sit jointly to exercise its constituent powers.

House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas said congressmen will accede to the wish of senators if they will insist on voting separately on the proposal to shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government.

Fariñas said the meeting, which will be attended by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, will establish clear boundaries since the process of changing the Constitution is a tedious one.

He said Congress leaders may discuss the issue first and report to their chambers before a final decision is made.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, earlier said the Supreme Court will have to decide if the House of Representatives and the Senate will vote jointly or separately since the Constitution is silent on how the voting should be done.

Article XVII, Sec. 1 of the Constitution provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.”

If the voting will be done jointly, Congress will need 238 votes of all members (293 congressmen and 24 senators).

If they will vote separately, the House will need 220 votes while the Senate will have to secure the support of 18 members.

Lagman has said he would personally file a petition to resolve the issue if no one will elevate it to the SC.

However, he said will no longer object if the voting will be undertaken jointly since he believes the two chambers become one when congressmen and senators sit as a Constituent Assembly (con-ass), the mode that President Duterte prefers in amending the Charter.

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‘MORE PROTECTED’

Fariñas tried to allay fears that conflict of interest might prevail in the deliberations, saying the people will be the ones to ultimately decide on the new Constitution in a plebiscite which could be held in 2019 simultaneously with the mid-term elections.

As part of the campaign to shift to federalism, the House leadership is planning to amend the rules to divide the members into 12 groups led by 12 deputy speakers and possibly one deputy speaker representing the party-list groups.

The planned division was reached based on the number of federal states that will be proposed once Congress is in the process of revising the Constitution.

“This will also be a trial balloon to see how we can work with it,” said Fariñas, adding that the proposal was discussed during a majority caucus last Tuesday.

He said a federal state could each represent northern Luzon (Regions 1, 2 & 3), Central Luzon, Metro Manila, southern Tagalog, and the Bicol region. There could be three from the Visayas, and three or four from Mindanao.

The most problematic areas, however, are provinces that are geographically aligned with Luzon but can be lumped with either Visayas or Mindanao like Palawan, Mindoro and Marinduque.

Fariñas said there will be efforts to “re-group” such provinces, particularly poor ones, so they will be lumped with richer local government units.

OVERSIGHT

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said in his column that the issue of how Congress will vote was forgotten because the 1986 Constitutional Commission approved the provision on amendments and revision with a perceived preference for a unicameral legislative body.

However, after a lengthy debate on July 28, 1986, the Con-Com decided in favor of going bicameral by a vote of 23-22, said Bernas.

“The Commission, concerned as it was with other issues, did not look back. Now we are left with the necessity of trying to construe the meaning of a constitutional provision originally designed for a unicameral legislature but now being placed at the service of a bicameral legislature,” he said.

In a hearing of the House committee on constitutional amendments in 2009, Bernas said there was no need for the House and the Senate to sit jointly in amending the Constitution since the existence of two chambers of Congress already constitutes a Constituent Assembly.

Bernas said Congress has the “discretion” to exercise its constituent powers either by jointly sitting or in separate sessions as long as the voting is done separately based on the constitutional vote of three-fourths of all members of each House.

He said the House can just send its proposed changes to the Senate which may approve or reject it or discuss their differences in a bicameral conference committee meeting.

ROUGH SAILING

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said senators are amenable to revisiting the Constitution but many remain apprehensive to shifting to a federal form of government.

Pimentel said any move to shift to federalism will be “bloody” because senators would put up a good fight during debates.

“I am confident of a passage of a con-con resolution or a con-ass resolution so that means we are really open to amending or revising the Constitution on the particular model for as long as it retains the concept of a Senate,” Pimentel said.

Among those who expressed apprehension over the adoption of a federal system is Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, who said he is unconvinced.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the public should be informed of its serious downsides “given the Philippine context of the prevalence of political warlordism.”

Sen. Leila de Lima said what is potentially divisive is the issue of federalism itself. – With JP Lopez


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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