THE minority bloc on Thursday agreed to constitute Congress into a Constituent Assembly to overhaul the 1987 Constitution and vowed to push for the lifting of term limits of the President and congressmen.
In a news conference, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said they wanted the President to have a four-year-term and another reelection or a total of eight years as against the present single six-year-term.
They also wanted the congressmen to have four years instead of three for each of three allowable terms or a total of 12 years.
Suarez said the six years for the President and three years with two reelections for congressmen seemed not enough to carry out reforms.
Suarez said the minority bloc was amenable to the major revisions of the Charter’s economic provisions.
Topping their list were the lifting of the protectionist 60-40 provision in foreigners owning the lands and the media outfits being owned by foreigners.
“We need investments and big foreign companies can provide the fresh capital that would bring more jobs to Filipinos,” Suarez said.
But House Deputy Minority Leader Harry Roque Jr. said he would still prefer Constitutional Convention to be the mode in amending the Constitution.
Roque also warned that once the Con-Ass was constituted, Congress would cease to function as a legislature.
“Our legislative priorities will take a backseat once Con-Ass is in place. The assembly will do nothing but make amendments. All bills and resolutions will no longer be tackled because there will be no more time to do that. That is my foremost apprehension about the Con-Ass,” Roque said.
Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said he was apprehensive about President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement he would have the party-list system abolished as some groups were not as marginalized as mandated by the Constitution.
There are 56 seats being held by party-list groups with Ako Bicol, Gabriela, Kabayan, Buhay, Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers and 1Pacman having obtained two seats each.
Suarez said while some of the 18 members of the minority bloc were not all-out for the Con-Ass, the minority leader said the bloc will be solid once plenary debates began on the issue.
Roque also said a prejudicial question had yet to be resolved and that would be whether or not the congressmen and senators would be voting for each provision jointly or separately.
“This has yet to be resolved by the Supreme Court. That is the prejudicial question that needs a ruling. The ruling may take time,” Roque said.
With the Senate being planned to be abolished as a result of the shift to a unilateral system, Batocabe said he was hoping the senators would cooperate in pursuing Charter change.
With the super majority coalition and now the minority bloc agreeing to ConAss, Suarez said the President’s wish to have the system of government shifted from presidential to federal is nearing reality.
“The President believes by shifting to federal parliamentary system of government, the problem of alleviating poverty would be speedier,” Suarez said.