House leadership receives draft of proposed federal constitution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — The Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the Constitution on Wednesday submitted to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez the draft of the proposed charter that allows for a shift to a federal form of government.

House leaders said they will study the draft constitution, stressing that they are taking it as a recommendation.

"[They know it's] just recommendatory. They are only advisory and I hope we can make that very clear to the public," House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas said.

President Rodrigo Duterte created the 22-member ConCom to review the 1987 Constitution and come up with proposals to implement the shift to federalism. 

The House leadership admits the ConCom's draft will carry weight once it is endorsed by the President. However,  Alvarez said is still up to congress to decide on what the new constitution will contain.

Alvarez said contentious topics need to be discussed, including the President's wish to step down from his post once the proposed federal charter is passed. This will make way for the public to elect a new President who will oversee the country's transition to a federal form of government.

"Pag-uusapan pa namin yan kasi (We will talk about that because) remember the president has a contract with the Filipino people for six years," Alvarez said.

He said he personally prefers that Duterte complete his six-year term.

The ConCom has yet to revise the transitory provisions in the draft it submitted to the House. It is set to finalize the draft on Wednesday as it agreed to revise the transitory provisions to comply with the President's request for another leader to be elected instead.

Duterte in effect wants the ConCom to amend Section 1, Article XXII of the proposed charter, which states the sitting President will chair the Federal Transition Commission which must complete its mandate of transition by June 30, 2022.

With or without Senate

Alvarez said the House of Representatives will push through with revising the Constitution even without the Senate's participation.

The House of Representatives already approved a resolution that will convene Congress as a constituent assembly, but the Senate has yet to pass theirs. As of now, a resolution calling for Congress to convene into a constituent assembly is still pending at the Senate committee level.

The Senate has yet to decide on pertinent issues: Whether there is a need to amend the Constitution, and if so, whether it will be done by a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly.

In a constituent assembly, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall convene and decide on constitutional amendments themselves. A constitutional convention, meanwhile, requires nationwide elections to select delegates who will draft the constitutional amendments.

The 1987 Constitution states that any amendment to or revision of the Constitution may be proposed by Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

All 23 senators have said they wanted to make their vote count in a separate voting, and not be irrelevant in a joint voting with 294 representatives.

A point of contention if Congress opts for a constituent assembly is whether the House and Senate will vote jointly or separately on the proposed revisions.

Senate President Tito Sotto earlier said charter change is not a priority of the Senate.

The shift to a federal form of government was among Duterte's campaign promises, saying it would pave the way for more equitable distribution of wealth and political power and bring peace in Mindanao.