Rody completes list of Con-com members

MANILA, Philippines -  President Duterte has completed his list of 25 members of the Constitutional Commission (Con-com), which includes retired chief justice Reynato Puno, who will study the proposed amendments to the Charter.


The list was shown to House leaders on the sidelines of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting at Malacañang on Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.


Sotto said two names stood out from the list – Puno and former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr.


The Con-com could start working soon, now that the President has named all 25 members, Sotto said.


Apart from the commission, Sotto said the PDP-Laban has a group working on the proposed amendments to the Constitution.


The shift to federalism is among the centerpieces of the Duterte administration, along with the war on drugs.


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Federalism has long been pushed by the ruling PDP-Laban, whose president and secretary general are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, respectively. 


The amendments to the Constitution, particularly the shift to federalism, were among 27 priority bills identified during the LEDAC meeting.


Based on its mandate, the Con-com will draft a bill that will be presented to Congress for consideration, presumably when it convenes as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. 


Sotto said Alvarez is looking at holding a plebiscite for the proposed amendments to the Constitution simultaneous with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, which could either be in May or October 2018.


Established by former president Fidel Ramos in 1992, LEDAC aims to serve as a consultative and advisory body to the president on certain policies and programs.


It is composed of the President’s Cabinet, Senate and House leaders and representatives from local government units, youth and private sector.


Based on the list provided by Sotto, the 27 bills are in various stages in the Senate and House and several have been approved on third and final reading.


Included in the list are the proposed national identification system, security of tenure or the anti-endo scheme bill, use of coconut levy funds, comprehensive tax reform program, emergency powers for traffic, budget reform, national land use and rightsizing of national government, amendments to the Anti-Cybercrime Act and Agricultural Tariffication Act, and the Free Irrigation Act.


Also in the list are the proposed ease of doing business bill, amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act, national mental health care delivery system, occupational safety and health hazards compliance, People’s Broadcasting Corp. charter, genuine agrarian reform bill, strengthening the balik-scientist program, Philippine qualifications framework and amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.


The LEDAC also included in the list the delineation of specific forest limits, amendments to the Social Security Act, enhanced universal health care, allowable recoverable system loss and amendments to the Public Service Act.


‘Start working now’

Duterte asked his allies in Congress to start working on the amendment to the Constitution that would shift the nation to the federal system.


In response to the President’s plea, Alvarez said he would soon meet with the Senate President to decide when congressmen and senators could convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to draft a new Constitution that would change the system of government from unitary-presidential to federal.


Alvarez said his proposal is for the two chambers to begin meeting as a con-ass early next year.


“But we here in the House are already conducting hearings on the proposed federalism shift,” he said.


Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, one of the proponents of federalism, welcomed Duterte’s appeal for his allies to speed up work on the planned switch to the federal system.


Villafuerte said aside from changes in the political structure, the House and the Senate, convened as a con-ass, should consider proposals to relax restrictions on foreign ownership of land and business.


“Federalism and foreign investments will sustain the economy’s growth momentum,” he said.


Aside from Villafuerte, several congressmen including Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental and Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of Cagayan de Oro City are seeking the lifting of foreign ownership restrictions in their versions of a revised Constitution that shifts the nation to the federal system.


Benitez is proposing a federal-presidential type of government with the present two-chamber Congress but with senators elected by region. – With Alexis Romero, Jess Diaz