Speaker eyes con-ass by July ABS-CBN News

Speaker eyes con-ass by July

MANILA, Philippines - If he could have his way, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants senators and congressmen to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) in July to work on a new Constitution.

He said lawmakers would rewrite the Charter to shift the nation to a federal system, as advocated by President Duterte, and to relax its restrictive economic provisions.

Alvarez said he expected Duterte to soon appoint members of the consultative commission on Charter change, which the Chief Executive created in December.

Alvarez said the commission should submit its report to the President and Congress in six months.

The Speaker has a three-year timeline for shifting the nation to the federal system.

He wants the new Charter to be submitted to the people in a plebiscite that would be held together with the midterm elections in May 2019.

To prepare his colleagues for their con-ass work, the House and the ruling PDP-Laban party organized a seminar on federalism last Wednesday.

In a message to participants, Alvarez thanked them for their “show of support and enthusiasm” in joining the discussion on Cha-cha.

“When this event was proposed to the Speaker, he gave it his full support. The kind of structure we have will dictate the strategic trajectory of our country in terms not limited to peace and development. Strategy always follows structure. Let us remember this,” he said.

Alvarez noted that under the present Constitution, the President serves as both head of state and head of government.

“From our historical experience, this has been an overwhelming task. This kind of setup has failed to respond effectively and efficiently to the recurring issues that have continuously plagued our nation. It has also adversely affected the needs and collective aspirations of our people,” the Speaker said.

“We have to consider the possibility that the structure we have now is no longer fit for the pressing needs of today and it is not compatible with meeting the challenges that tomorrow will bring,” he said.

Duterte has expressed preference for a federal system with a strong president and a prime minister who assists the chief executive in running the government.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez has proposed a mix of federal-presidential setup with a two-chamber Congress. On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. wants a pure federal-parliamentary form with a unicameral or one-chamber parliament.

Benitez, Rodriguez, Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and several House members are pushing for the relaxation of the Constitution’s economic provisions to allow 100-percent foreign ownership of land and businesses.000
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