Deputy Speaker suggests con-ass

March 28, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 73 views

IF the Senate is wary of Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), why not Congress as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for Charter economic reform?

This was raised by Deputy Speaker Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. following Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’ statement that the House is open to discussing with the Senate the mode of changing the language of the Charter’s economic provisions.

In a statement, Gonzales has renewed his push for the convening of Congress as a Con-Ass to propose changes in the Constitution’s “restrictive” economic provisions.

Under Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, the House has opted for the constitutional convention mode.

“I agree with Senate President Migz (Juan Miguel) Zubiri that a con-con will have plenary powers, including proposing political amendments. Congress will have no control over a con-con. So should we not instead convene as a con-ass?” Gonzales said.

Gonzales, who had proposed con-ass under RBH No. 1, said a constituent assembly “is the most expeditious, most inexpensive and most controllable manner of proposing Charter amendments.”

“We could agree under a joint resolution to limit the effort to rewrite the economic provisions. I think there is consensus on that in both chambers. Any political amendment proposal will be immediately rejected,” he said.

He said the two chambers could also agree that voting would be separate, with each house mustering at least a three-fourths vote on any constitutional amendment proposal as required by the Constitution.

“As for the expenses, these would be minimal, since there would be no need for an election, unlike in a constitutional convention, no additional salaries and allowances, no additional personnel. Whatever expenses that may be incurred, we could charge them to our own budget,” he added.

Gonzales pointed out that a con-ass that would limit its job to proposing changes in the Charter’s economic provisions should take only a few months to finish its task.

“If we convene in May or June, we could have September as our deadline so we could present the Charter amendment proposals to the people in a plebiscite that could coincide with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October to further limit expenses,” he said.

He said Congress could meet as a con-ass in the morning and as a legislature in the afternoon.

The solon also stressed that a con-ass would not only address the misgivings of Zubiri and his Senate colleagues on the plenary powers of a con-con but the concern as well of the Makati Business Club and big business groups on the high cost of a convention, which was estimated at a minimum of P14 billion.

Allowances alone, at P10,000 a day for each 320 convention delegates, would amount to P672 million over the proposed seven-month life of the assembly.