CALLING for a constitutional convention is the best way to achieve Charter reforms, as it is “clearly the path of least resistance,” House senior deputy minority leader and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said Monday.
“If we want Charter reforms to succeed, we have to do it right. We have to learn the lessons of the past,” Atienza, author of bill calling for a constitutional convention, said.
“There is definitely less resistance to, and more support for constitutional convention in the House as well as in the Senate,” he said.
Atienza said previous administrations had tried, without success, to sell to the people the idea of Congress converting itself into a constituent assembly for the purpose of revising the 1987 Constitution.
In the past, those strongly opposed to a constituent assembly were mostly wary that members of Congress might introduce self-serving amendments, including the lifting of restrictions to the number of terms they and their family members may serve in elected offices.
The House committee on constitutional amendments, voting 32-7 with three abstentions, earlier approved a concurrent resolution calling for Congress to convene itself into a constituent assembly.
Atienza, who was among those who forcefully argued and voted against the concurrent resolution during the committee meeting, said he expects a heated debate once the measure is sent to the floor.
“The people are entitled to elect a new set of representatives to propose improvements to the Constitution,” Atienza said.
“We in Congress were not specifically selected by the people to tamper with and mess around with the Constitution. We were chosen as district and party-list representatives mainly to pass laws,” he pointed out.
Atienza also stressed the need for Congress to directly involve the people, especially the younger generation, in the process of renewing the country’s 29-year-old Constitution.
“And one sure way to engage them from the start is via a constitutional convention, where they will have the chance to expressly elect their representatives,” he said.
“This way, the proposed modifications will also be easily ratified once these are submitted to the people in a plebiscite,” he added.
In a constituent assembly, Congress itself sits down to recommend revisions to the Constitution.
In a constitutional convention, the people will elect representatives who will suggest alterations to the Constitution.
In both cases, the proposed changes will require final direct approval by the people in a referendum.
President Rodrigo Duterte wants the Constitution reformed so that the country can shift to a federal-parliamentary form of government.