THE House plans to work overtime with a five-day session week, instead of three, to accommodate and expedite Charter Change debates, the granting of emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte and the passage of priority bills.
The proposal came ahead of Monday’s submission by the Palace of a P3.35-trillion national budget proposal for 2017.
The House committee on appropriations led by Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexie Nograles is scheduled to begin budget deliberations starting Aug. 22.
Nograles said the budget is 11.6 percent higher than this year’s budget of P3.001 trillion.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Ray Villafuerte said the House and Senate could work even faster by adopting his proposal for a five-day session week.
“Holding sessions from Mondays to Fridays would give us enough time and make us work faster in performing our lawmaking duties along with the extra workload of amending the Constitution via the.. [Constituent Assembly] route,” Villafuerte said.
At present, Congress’ calendar observes a three-day session week from Monday to Wednesday to allow the lawmakers to travel to their home provinces to do their district duties the rest of the week.
Villafuerte said by stretching their workweek, House members could finish budget deliberations ahead of schedule and then begin discussions on federalism before the year ends.
He said Charter Change deliberations could also be done right away by setting aside specific days per week for lawmaking and for constituent assembly days for federalism.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez have agreed to discuss and approve the 2017 national budget between now and November so lawmakers could buckle down to work to propose amendments to the Constitution beginning January next year.
The two leaders said they have yet to agree on the mode of amending the Constitution, however.
“We have no decision yet. It was a free flowing discussion which we agreed to continue as often as possible,” Pimentel said.
“Between now and November this year, we will give focus to the consideration and passage of the proposed General Appropriations Act for 2017, and other vital issues, before redirecting attention to the revision of the Constitution by January,” Alvarez said.
Villafuerte, a staunch advocate of federalism, said convening Congress as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution would be much faster and more economical than an elected constitutional convention.
Alvarez and Pimentel said the leaders reached a consensus that the House and the Senate could focus on constitutional amendments starting January 2017.
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