The proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution is being revived at the House of Representatives.
In filing House Bill 4926, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte on Monday called on the 19th Congress to assemble a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) by December 2023 at the earliest to work economic and political reforms to the 1987 Constitution.
In HB 4926, to be known as the “Constitutional Convention Act,” Villafuerte proposed that the members of the would-be Con-Con assigned the task of studying amendments and revisions to the 35-year-old Charter be elected in the next nationwide balloting.
That is either the one to be re-scheduled for selecting our barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials or the midterm elections for legislators and local executives due three years from now.
Villafuerte said among the three options allowed for Charter Change under the 1987 Constitution, the “most transparent and trustworthy” manner of introducing needed constitutional reforms is through the election of delegates to a Con-Con, in lieu of the Congress convening itself into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) or directly by the people themselves through the “People’s Initiative.”
“The Con-Ass route is not likely to get from Point A to Point B, given that this available process for Charter Change is likely to be sidetracked by the expectedly protracted national debate on whether
the 1987 Constitution actually requires senators and House members to vote separately or jointly on proposed constitutional amendments and/or revisions,” Villafuerte said.
Moreover, he said, “a Con-Ass will further polarize our people, given one legitimate concern that devoting part of our official time as legislators to the Con-Con would only distract us from, and enable us to devote less of our efforts and resources on, the task of law-making, which is what our voters had elected us to do in the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
As for the People’s Initiative option, he said, “this process, given its nature and the way it is supposed to make changes and seek the people’s support and approval, is only ideal for introducing minor revisions to the Constitution, and not for major amendments or an overhaul that will possibly entail major changes in numerous constitutional provisions.”
One minor revision in the Constitution, for example, may entail changes in various articles and sections in the entire Constitution that will all need to be presented to, and approved by the electorate, in a plebiscite, he said.
Villafuerte pointed out that one complex issue, for instance, that has led to controversies and seemingly endless debates in the past is on the needed action of the bicameral Congress on certain concerns.
This was because the framers of the 1987 Constitution had failed to explicitly state in all of the Charter’s provisions concerning congressional approval on whether senators and House members need to vote separately or jointly in a Con-Ass.
“Proposals to introduce amendments via the Constituent Assembly route have gone nowhere in the past, for example, because these reform proposals had sparked long-drawn-out debates on whether senators and House members need to vote separately or jointly on amendments or revisions,” he said.
The next barangay/SK elections were originally set on Dec. 5 this year, but the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed in a recent caucus to pass before the Oct. 1-Nov. 6 recess of the 19th Congress the priority bill postponing this nationwide poll possibly on Dec. 4, 2023.
The midterm elections, meanwhile, is set on May 12, 2025.
As proposed in HB 4926 authored by Villafuerte, a three-term CamSur governor before his election to the House of Representatives and the president of the National Unity Party (NUP), his proposed Con-Con shall be composed of one (1) delegate from every legislative district nationwide.
At present, there are 243 congressional districts across the country.
“The clamor for Charter Change has always been relevant,” said Villafuerte in the bill. ““However, calls for genuine constitutional reforms have taken a backseat because of perceived controversies and allegations of corruption in previous administrations.’
“Filipinos, meanwhile, take severe punishment from corruption, high prices, inequitable distribution of income, and a lopsided playing field when it comes to foreign investments,” he said.
“Thus, while it is a given that the present Charter needs to go through the process of revision, this should be done with much deliberation and in a transparent and trustworthy atmosphere.”