Con-Com leaning toward requiring college degree or equivalent for lawmakers

ONE-MONTH MARK. Former chief justice Reynato Puno explains the achievements of the Consultative Committee in the past month. Photo by Dasha Uy

ONE-MONTH MARK. Former chief justice Reynato Puno explains the achievements of the Consultative Committee in the past month.

Photo by Dasha Uy

MANILA, Philippines – The Consultative Committee (Con-Com) is leaning toward requiring members of the Senate and House of Representatives to have a "college degree or its equivalent" in the draft constitution they will propose to President Rodrigo Duterte.

A Con-Com subcommittee voted to add this requirement on Monday, March 19, said Conrado Generoso, senior technical assistant to the Con-Com chairman, during a press conference on Tuesday, March 20.

The 1987 Constitution has no such qualification requirement. A person can be a senator as long as he or she is a natural-born citizen, able to read and write, at least 35 years old on the day of election, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for at least two years preceding the day of election.

A person can be a member of the House if he or she is a natural-born citizen, able to read and write, at least 25 years old on the day of election, a registered voter in his or her district – except for party-list representatives, and a resident of the Philippines for at least one year preceding the day of election.

Con-Com Chairman Reynato Puno said there were many long discussions on adding a qualification requirement, with some members saying it is undemocratic as only 10% of the Filipino population have a college degree.

But in the end, those who wanted the additional requirement took the debate.

"There is that school of thought that you need this qualification in order to improve the quality of laws that will come from Congress and ultimately, the second school of thought won," said Puno.

The concern on limiting the pool of possible lawmakers was addressed by allowing persons with the "equivalent" of a college degree to run.

By equivalency, this means a certification from educational institutions that a level of experience or training outside a university is deemed equivalent to a college degree.

Executive Order No. 330 gives the Commission on Higher Education that mandate to certify, after thorough evaluation "the pertinent work experiences and knowledge or expertise acquired by individuals from high-level, non-formal, and informal training toward the awarding of an appropriate academic degree."

Puno also noted that most lawmakers today have a college degree thus the proposed provision just mirrors reality.

"Right now, if you look at the members of Congress, the House and the Senate, you will find out that there are very few who lack the college degree so in effect the committee recommendation is just an affirmation of the vote of the people," said Puno. (READ: Con-Com to visit provinces for consultations from April to June– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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