FOLLOWING Congress’ resumption of session today, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments will begin its series of hearings this week on the draft federal Constitution submitted by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) led by its chairman Reynato Puno that Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez vowed to finish within a period of at least six months by suspending the 2019 midterm poll.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, who chairs the panel, said his committee is eyeing this Wednesday as the first hearing day for the Con-Com proposal to expedite its passage at the House of Representatives.
“We will immediately begin the hearing. I think this Wednesday if the schedule permits. That is the mandate (deliberate) of our committee. To study these (Con-Com) recommendations,” said Mercado in an interview.
Alvarez has committed to finish deliberating the draft federal Constitution of Con-Com in six months at the earliest.
“Kung ‘yung Constitutional Commission ay inabot sila ng apat na buwan para gawin iyan, siyempre sa Kongreso, sa House of Representatives, sa tingin namin siguro pinakamaaga naming magagawa iyan in six months,” said Alvarez.
“Pinaka-maaga na ‘yung [six months],” said Alvarez, adding that the deliberations and approval of the proposal may even take longer than six months:
“Puwede pong [tumagal]. Kasi depende nga ‘yun kung magkasundo or hindi magkasundo, hindi ba? Mapagde-debatehang mabuti iyan. At pagkatapos niyan, bago mo isalang sa taong-bayan iyan, may requirement pa rin, ‘yung massive information drive. We have to educate the people hindi ba, kung ano itong isasalang sa plebisito,” said Alvarez, reiterating that Congress should decide on the possible postponement of next year’s midterm election before the October 2018 filing of certificate of candidacy (CoC).
“Kapag nag-file ka ng candidacy ng October, ang hirap na pong kumuha ng quorum niyan,” said Alvarez, explaining lawmakers will be busy with their campaign.
He said the House leadership will push people’s initiative (PI) if senators reject convening Congress into a constituent assembly (Con-Ass).
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu filed House Bill (HB) No. 5724 so the people could use the PI and referendum mode for Charter change and legislation.
Abu’s measure seeks to adopt Republic Act (RA) No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act through PI sin amending the Constitution.
He underscored the paramount importance of the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of initiative under Section 2 of Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution.
The provision allows voters to directly propose an amendment to the Charter or enact, repeal or revise a law.
“Considering the paramount importance of the right of the people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of initiative under Section 2 of Article XVII, this bill seeks to fill in the insufficiency of RA No. 6735 and to come up with an enabling law sufficient to provide for the implementation of the exercise of such right,” said Abu.
Abu said the proposal “is a must to put into reality the Latin maxim ‘vox populi vox dei’ or ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God.’”
The House leader said his measure is consistent with a 1997 Supreme Court ruling finding the law not enough to carry out the Charter’s provision on initiative and referendum.