Alvarez: Congress to do Cha-Cha in 2018

Alvarez: Congress to do Cha-Cha in 2018

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that Congress would convene as a constituent assembly next year if the Palace does not fill the constitutional commission this year. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that if nothing happens this year with the plan to revise the Constitution, Congress can go ahead and convene as a constituent assembly to introduce changes to the country’s fundamental law.

Speaking to reporters at the House of Representatives, Alvarez said that President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to create a constitutional commission that would propose changes to the 1987 Constitution.Malacañang however seems too busy at this time to appoint the members of the planned commission, Alvarez said.

Alvarez, whom Duterte picked to lead his majority coalition at the House when he won the presidency last year, said that the chamber had already submitted its recommendations on the possible members of the commission.

The House leader added that Malacañang had already issued the executive order creating the commission.

“Ah, hindi ko talaga alam dahil yung bola nasa Malacañang pa hanggang ngayon, In fact, nag-submit na kami ng recommendation and na-issue na rin yung EO creating the Constitutional Commission. So ang kulang dun yung membership ng Constitutional Commission,” he said.

Alvarez said that if nothing happens with the planned changes to the charter, the House — and possibly the Senate — would start its deliberations and convene as a constituent assembly.

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“Ewan ko, medyo marami lang talaga siguro ginagawa ang Malacañang but definitely, pag hindi yan siya nangyari this year, definitely, with or without the commission — By next year, uumpisahan ng Kongreso yan,” Alvarez said. “Umpisahan na yang pag-usapan sa committee level yung ano and then ipapasa namin.  Ganoon din doon sa Senado. We can agree. Puwede namin i-convene yung Congress into Constituent Assembly.”

Alvarez said that time is of the essence in the administration’s plan to shift to a federal form of government to address the alleged unbalanced distribution of money and power between Manila and the provinces.

“Siguro mas earlier the better because there will be elections sa 2019,” he said.

Alvarez said that if Congress convenes as a constituent assembly the House and the Senate would merge into one body, although they would still vote separately.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel meanwhile outlined the PDP-Laban’s proposal to shift to federalism during the celebration of the foundation of the mother province of Surigao on Monday. 
Surigao used to include the provinces of Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur and Dinagat Islands.
He said in his speech that federalism is needed to address the neglect that Mindanao has experienced under the current unitary system of government.
Aside from shifting the country’s system of government, Pimentel said that it is important that the change is accompanied by reforms including the strengthening of the party system in the Philippines, budgetary support for parties and raising qualifications for the presidency.
"By the second half of this year, federalism will be the major topic of public debates," he said.