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Drilon deplores House plan to railroad Charter change.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon deplored plans by Malacanang allies in Congress to railroad holding a national plebiscite this coming May to ratify a constitutional amendment paving the way for the shift to a federal form of government favored by President Duterte.

Drilon was reacting to reports over the weekend that a Palace study group formed to craft Charter changes was moving to fast-track its deadline in order to complete the task in time for holding a May 2018 referendum to ratify major amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

'We assume the constitutional study is still incomplete,' the senator said. 'That is the conclusion we seethey may be ready, we don't know,' Drilon says even as he asserts that 'amending the Charter is the task of Congress and not the Executive branch.'

Drilon recalled that when he was still the chairman of the Senate Committee on Amendments, he had asked Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea to submit a Palace position on its preferred mode of amending the Charter: through a constitutional convention or Congress as Constituent Assembly.

The Senator added that 'unfortunately' Medialdea told us that President Duterte had just signed an Executive Order creating a constitutional study group composed of 24 members.'

'Unfortunately, up to this point, the Senate has not yet received an official position,' Drilon said. 'We don't know if the constitutional study group had convened. What I remember is they wanted to tap as chairman former Chief Justice Ricardo Puno. Up to now, nothing has been submitted to us.'

The senator suspects the non-submission indicates that Palace officials pushing for Constitutional changes are not ready to render a report on their plans to tinker with the Charter.

Drilon doubted the statement attributed to Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez calling for a Charter change referendum by May 2018 as reflective of the Palace position on the issue. 'Until the Senate gets an official communication, we cannot presume that is the position of Malacanang.'

At the same time, Drilon rules out as improbable the timetable laid down by Alvarez to hold a plebiscite on Charter change this coming May. 'It really cannot be done.'

'First, we have to decide if we want to do it through a Constituent Assembly [Con-ass] and whether the Senate is amenable to that. We belong to two coequal chambers and one cannot dictate on the other.'

The House cannot dictate that the mode for amending the Constitution should be Con-ass.

Drilon added: 'There is no such consensus in the Senate. In fact, what is pending in the committee is a resolution calling for an election of the delegates of the constitutional convention. The first step is to determine the mode for amending the Constitution. And under the Constitution, there are two modes: Constituent Assembly where Congress proposes amendments that require 3/4 votes, or constitutional convention by 2/3 votes. That is the first step before we talk about ratification.'

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jan 8, 2018
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