Senate set to convene con-ass in 2017

Senate set to convene con-ass in 2017

The Senate is ready to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) with the House of Representatives next year to write amendments to the 1987 Constitution, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said yesterday. Koko Pimentel/Released

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is ready to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) with the House of Representatives next year to write amendments to the 1987 Constitution, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said yesterday.


Pimentel said he hopes the proposed changes to the 29-year-old Constitution will be submitted to Congress by the body of experts formed by Malacañang for the purpose before the middle of 2017 so lawmakers can start working on the amendments.


While President Duterte as well as many lawmakers prefer the constituent assembly as a mode for Charter change, the formation of a constitutional convention (con-con) is still very much an option, Pimentel said.


In a con-ass, the Senate and the House will convene as one charter amending body while a con-con requires the election of delegates.


The main drawback of a con-con is its huge cost, and the danger that its process will lead to massive changes in the Constitution, and drag for a long time being an independent body, according to some experts.


“We’re preparing as lawmakers, we’re reading the Constitution and thinking what are the good reforms for our Constitution, so we’re ready to convene as a constituent assembly,” Pimentel told dzBB.


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Duterte is pushing for a shift to a federal form of government as well as lifting restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution. He vowed to step down from office if the amendments are implemented before his term ends in 2022.


Duterte has also assured the 24-member Senate that he prefers a separate voting of members of chambers of Congress in the event the con-ass convened to allay concerns of senators they will be outvoted by congressmen, who number around 290.


Pimentel said while nothing stops a lawmaker from proposing amendments other than a shift to federalism and removal of restrictive economic provisions, members of the con-ass can exercise self-discipline and “limit ourselves to not go beyond our agreement.”


“Let’s not worry because we’re really opening up the Constitution,” Pimentel said. “This is really the process to change or revise.”


Sen. Franklin Drilon, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, started committee hearings earlier this month on four proposals in the chamber calling for Charter change either through con-ass or con-con.


“It must be emphasized that amendments to the Constitution are a constituent function granted by the Constitution itself only to Congress, which amendments will become effective only upon ratification by the people in a plebiscite. Can Congress, as a legislative body, limit the powers of a constituent assembly by specifying which provisions can be amended? Or, are the powers of the constituent assembly plenary?” Drilon said during the hearing.