Senate panel to start charter change debates next week

Deliberations on the proposed charter change (cha-cha), one of the top priorities of the Duterte administration, will begin rolling in the Senate next week, immediately after the enactment of the P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017.
“Let the debates begin,” Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, concurrent chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, yesterday said.
“This committee understands the importance of this undertakingin the agenda of the current administration so we will ensure that it is given the utmost priority,” he added.

Drilon has set December 8 as the first public hearing on proposals to amend the Charter, with notable constitutionalists as among the resource persons.
“We will hear all views and opinions of the various sectors on these issues,” he said.
These include former Chief Justices Hilario Davide Jr., Reynato Puno and Artemio Panganiban.
Also invited are former Supreme Court Associate Justices Adolfo Azcuna, Antonio Nachura and Vicente Mendoza, as well as constitutional experts Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Atty. Christian Monsod; and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Drilon said he has also invited some members of the Cabinet such as Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Makati Business Club Chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr.
Representatives from various sectors such as the business community, labor, academe, civil society, sectoral and religious groups will also be part of the hearings.
Drilon reiterated his commitment toward making the process of amending and revising the Constitution thoroughly, consultative and transparent.
“The initial hearing would focus on the following key issues: Is there a need to amend or revise the Constitution Why or why not If so, what parts of the Constitution should be amended or revised Why Should the amendments or revision be proposed by a Constitutional Convention (con-con) or by the Congress itself acting as a constituent assembly Why If Congress convenes as a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending or revising the Constitution, should the Senate and the House of Representatives vote jointly or separately?” he asked.
“All these must be and will be thoroughly considered, guided by the principle that the vehicle we choose must be democratic, participatory and inclusive,” Drilon assured.
      Con-con spending  an investment – solon
House Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, meanwhile, is insisting that con-con is still the best mode for cha-cha.
“If we can spend P26 billion to elect a president that we will replace in six years, and to choose members of Congress as well as local officials that we will replace in three, surely we can spend P8 billion to pick delegates to a constitutional convention that will draft us a new Charter that is bound to outlast a generation,” he said in a statement.
“We should not hesitate to spend for the preparation of a new Constitution that could free up the national economy from the clutches of oligarchs, build genuine peace and order, provide full employment and guarantee every Filipino family a rising standard of living,” Atienza stressed.
The opposition lawmaker was responding to the claim of House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas that calling for a con-con could easily cost anywhere from P6 billion to P8 billion, whereas convening Congress into a con-ass to propose changes to the Charter would cost only P2 billion.
“Next year, we will be spending another P6 billion for the barangay polls. Is the House majority telling us that electing barangay officials that we will replace in three years is more important than voting for a constitutional convention We can spend P6 billion for the barangay polls, but we cannot spend P8 billion for a constitutional convention?” Atienza argued.
In a constitutional convention, the people will elect representatives who will recommend amendments to the Constitution.
In a constituent assembly, Congress itself sits down to put forward modifications to the Constitution.
In both cases, the proposed changes will require final direct approval by the people in a referendum.
Congress authorized the Commission on Elections to spend P16.814 billion in 2015 and another P16.004 billion this year, mainly for the preparations and conduct of the May 9 general elections as well as the October 31 barangay election that has since been postponed to 2017.