Constitutional Law & Civil Rights

House Panel, ConCom to persuade Senate into Con-Ass

Date: 07 August 2018; Type: Industry Updates; Source: House of Representatives

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments has set its sights on convincing the Senate to convene a Constituent Assembly, according to committee chairman Rep. Vicente Veloso (3rd District, Leyte).

The committee met with members of the Consultative Committee on Tuesday in a closed-door session to discuss how the Senate can be persuaded. The ConCom had already submitted the draft Federal Constitution to President Duterte and leaders of the House and the Senate.

Former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo joined the meeting. She herself favors separate voting when the House and the Senate convene into a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

In his opening remarks, Veloso stressed that the House and the Senate must discuss proposed changes together in the Con-Ass, though the two chambers would still vote separately.

He said that this is expressed in House Resolution No. 2056 which was filed on August 7 under the direction of Speaker Arroyo and Majority Leader Rolando Andaya.

"It is incorrect for anybody to say that this is only the view of the Speaker. Because if this is adopted by the House of Representatives, it will be the collective view of the House, binding on the part of the House, that as the Constituent Assembly convened, we shall eventually be voting separately," Veloso said.

He said Constituent Assembly is vital because procedures must first be agreed upon by both the House and the Senate before the substance of the proposed provisions can be explored.

"We cannot tackle the substance without settling first the matter of how to go about it, how to receive your proposal," Veloso explained to the Consultative Committee.

ConCom member and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. said he was "very enthused" that the House is receptive to the idea of changing the Constitution.

"We will overcome the problem by precisely explaining the ins and outs of the proposal to shift to the federal system," Pimentel said.

The panel further emphasized the need for a federal system to dismantle the highly centralized government, particularly the unequal distribution of wealth and representation in the country.

"There is really a need for us to federalize. There is really a need for us to distribute the number of Senators that we have regardless of voting population. There is a need for us to find a way that our people in various regions are equally represented. And we can have this only through federalized government," Veloso said.

Moreover, the panel also briefly discussed the proposals of the ConCom such as the division of the nation's resources and the establishment of an Equalization Fund for federal states that might not be able to survive on their own.

Pimentel noted that under the proposed federal system, the overall resources of the country shall be divided 50-50 between the national government and the federal states.

In contrast, the Local Government Code currently mandates a 60-40 sharing of the collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

"Instead of collections lamang ng BIR, buong income at resources of the government will now be divided 50-50. And three percent of the national budget will go to Equalization Fund to make sure it will be able to respond to the demands of the less developed federal states," Pimentel said.

The panel also discussed the structure of the federal government, distribution of powers, and sources of revenue.

The meeting was attended by Reps. Alfredo Garbin Jr., Arnolfo Teves Jr., Joseph Stephen Paduano, Wilter Wee Palma II, Manuel Sagarbarria, Alfredo Benitez, Magnolia Antonino, and Lawrence Fortun.

ConCom members present in the executive meeting include Roan Libarios, Edmund Tayao, Susan Ordinario, Arthur Aguilar, and Conrado Generoso.

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