SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday proposed the creation of a 20-member constitutional commission that would include two former mayors of Cagayan de Oro to help Congress, acting as a constituent assembly, in drafting proposed charter changes.
Alvarez said the creation of the commission would allay reservations on amending the Constitution through a constituent assembly instead of a constitutional convention.
“I will propose to our President to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission. The proposed commission will be tasked to study and review the present Constitution and draft a new charter which will then be submitted to the constituent assembly where it will be discussed thoroughly,” he said.
Alvarez said the commission should include constitutional law experts like former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and lawyer Reuben Canoy. Both served as mayor of Cagayan de Oro.
He said the commission should also include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino who is the dean of the San Beda Law School, representatives of non-government organizations, the academe, and other sectors of society.
Alvarez said he sees no legal impediment on the creation of such a commission through an executive order.
“It would still be Congress, acting as constituent assembly, that would discuss and approve the proposed charter changes,” he said.
“And after Congress approves the proposed amendments, it’s not final yet. The public must still agree to the proposed changes. That’s why it’s safe because in the end it’s the people who would decide whether they agree or not with the proposed new constitution,” Alvarez said.
In the meantime, he said that he understands the prevailing public sentiment against amending the Constitution through a constituent assembly given their experience in past Charter change attempts in previous administrations.
Alvarez himself filed a resolution, the very first resolution filed in the 17th Congress, seeking to amend the Constitution through a constitutional convention in accordance with the earlier position of President Duterte.
Initially, Duterte favored amending the Charter through a constitutional convention but later changed his mind in favor of a constituent assembly to save money.
According to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, convening Congress into a constituent assembly would only cost the government P2 billion as compared to convening a constituent assembly which would entail around P5 billion to P7 billion.
Alvarez said the money to be saved would be used to fulfill the President’s other campaign promises such as providing better pay for police and soldiers, increasing benefits for the elderly and retirees, as well as pushing the fight against drugs and criminality among others.
Nevertheless, the Speaker assured that despite the move for a constituent assembly, Congress would heed Duterte’s call to craft a new charter that would be pro-Filipino.
“Members of Congress must rise to the challenge of President Duterte that as Filipinos, we must work to uphold the interest of the Filipino people,” Alvarez said. (pna)