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Constitutional Commission seen as best option for Philippine shift to federalism

In support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to shift from a presidential form of government to federalism in the Philippines, Congressman Mayo Almario of the 2nd District of Davao Oriental proposed to revise the Constitution through a Constitutional Commission or Con-Com.

The present 1987 Constitution (Article XVII) provides for three modes of revising the Constitution: Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its members; a constitutional convention; and people’s initiative.

Almario said that the fourth mode is possible. Under his proposal, Congress, in addition to its legislative functions, shall convene itself as a constituent assembly for August and September only.

Its sole purpose is to amend only Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution and all other provisions related thereto to effect the inclusion of the Con-Com as the fourth mode.

The assembly’s output or the Con-Com provision shall be subjected to a plebiscite to be synchronized in the scheduled October 2016 barangay elections.

If approved in the plebiscite, the country will have its 2016 Constitution with only the Con-Com and other related provisions added.

Under this 2016 Constitution, the president shall then appoint 100 members to the Constitutional Commission who shall be bonafide representatives of not more than 20 legitimate sectors of the society.

The Con-Com shall be given from January to May 2017 or five months to draft the new proposed constitution which will embody the shift to federalism and will include all other economic, political and other provisions as may be agreed.

The plebiscite for this draft constitution shall be held in September 2017.

If the new proposed constitution is ratified in the September 2017 plebiscite, the country will have the new 2017 Constitution under a federal form of government.

The 1987 Constitution was perfect for the Filipinos emerging from the Marcos era but it has shown obsolescence in its almost 30 years of existence.

Almario said that the current Congress, acting as an assembly, may come up short in overhauling the present constitution considering that charter change is a pressing issue.

“The need to revise it has come and the best of the best must do the job of revising it. The best qualified people like Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban will never be politicians enough to run in a Con-con election, only the politicians and their protégés will – never mind if there are some who know less about the constitution. That’s why the need for the best people to draft the eventual 2017 constitution has to be appointed by the president,” he said.

Almario also said that Congress cannot afford delays in its legislative functions especially when it conducts budget deliberations. “Having a Con-con election will usher in never-ending debates as to the qualification of candidates, manner of election, participation of Smartmatic, budget concerns, protests by losing candidates and many more. As such, Congress’ legislative functions will be the collateral damage,” he added.

“The Constitutional Commission is the best way to revise the constitution. It is fast, time-bounded, and least expensive. It is not divisive as there will be no election for a Con-con. It will not further stress the already election-fatigued Filipinos,”Almario concluded.