MANILA, Philippines – Amid chants to junk charter change proposals on Sunday evening, February 25, Senator Francis Pangilinan, chairman of a Senate panel tackling these proposals, said they will continue deliberations as administration allies push for federalism.
“I’m conducting the hearings and we will continue to conduct the hearings,” Pangilinan told Rappler on the sidelines of coalition Tindig Pilipinas program to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
Although the 32nd anniversary of the revolution was the focal point of the event, Tindig Pilipinas members also called on the junking of Charter Change, which would pave the way for a shift to a federal form of government.
But first, there’s a pricklier issue that’s yet to be resolved: should the Senate and House vote jointly or separately in approving proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution?
“A more fundamental question is: are we going to be voting jointly or separately?” said Pangilinan, when asked about a possible timeline to the charter change process.
Federalism is among the key advocacies of the now-ruling PDP-Laban and was among the key issues President Rodrigo Duterte highlighted during the 2016 campaign.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, party president of PDP-Laban, head earlier expressed confidence that Pangilinan, party president of the once-ruling Liberal Party, would stay true to his promise not to be “obstructionist” in Charter Change deliberations.
Pimentel is eyeing a plebiscite by May 2019 or earlier. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had eyed an even earlier schedule: May 2018 for a plebiscite.
Despite talks between the leaders of the two chambers, they have yet to agree on whether the two chambers should vote jointly or separately. The Senate, in an informal meeting, agreed that would reject efforts to push for joint voting since this would render their decision as a body useless. The Senate is currently composed of 23 members while the House has nearly 300 members.
Pimentel and Alvarez, thus far, have merely agreed to set aside the debate over joint or separate voting and focus first on the proposed amendments themselves. Meanwhile, Duterte has formed a Constitutional commission that would come up with proposals.
Asked if his attendance in the Tindig Pilipinas event would be in conflict with his role as chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, Pangilinan said: “This is a commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of People Power. So I don’t see the conflict. I’m here because it’s the 25th of February.”
The Senate will be holding at least 3 or more hearings on Charter Change proposals. Over at the supermajority-dominated House of Representatives, the committee on constitutional amendments is also finalizing proposals to amend the charter.
But weeks back, the House passed a House Concurrent Resolution calling on Congress to convene as Constituent Assembly that would propose amendments to the charter. The Senate did not act on this resolution. – Rappler.com