House aims to pass draft federal charter by early 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is aiming to pass its draft federal constitution on third and final reading in the first quarter of  2019.

House constitutional amendments panel chairperson Vicente Veloso told Rappler in a phone interview on Tuesday, October 9, that this was the marching order of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who co-authored Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 15 with Veloso and 20 other legislators.  

Asked whether Arroyo have the panel marching orders, Veloso said: “Yes. We have to finish this on time. And when we say on time, because we have Section 4, Article XVII of the present Constitution which says ratification [of any amendment or revision of the Constitution] should not be earlier than 60 [days], no later than 90 days from adoption."

"Then if we are thinking of May 2019 as our ratification date, then move 60 days…it should be in the vicinity of February or March 2019,” he added.

Section 4, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution states any amendment or revision of the Constitution "shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the approval of such amendment or revision."

RBH 15 contains the House’s proposed constitution to shift the Philippines to federalism.  

Unlike the Consultative Committee’s draft that would divide the country into 18 federated regions, RBH 15 would not impose the division of the Philippines into a specific number of federal states. It would instead give localities the option to petition Congress to turn them into federal states.

The House’s draft federal charter also lifts term limits currently imposed on lawmakers and would remove Vice President Leni Robredo in the line of succession during the transition period

Veloso said the House wants to have the new draft federal constitution ratified by May 2019. 

Not stopping 2019 polls 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate criticized RBH 15 for not containing provisions on holding elections in May 2019.

"As it is, this Arroyo-led cha-cha (charter change) push is very dangerous because if approved before the 2019 polls, this will in effect postpone the elections up to 2022, thereby extending the terms of the current officials," said Zarate. 

But Veloso clarified they do not intend to cancel or postpone to midterm elections slated for the same month. (READ: Arroyo opposes proposal to scrap 2019 elections)

“It will not [stop the 2019 elections]. The Speaker said tuloy ang elections (the elections will push through),” said Veloso. 

Senate leaders are already set to kill the House’s proposed constitution, with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon calling it “dead on arrival.” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they “don't have time to even talk about it.” – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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