PALACE and Congress leaders are looking to firm up a decision on the preferred mode for amending the Constitution by mid-year yet, Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin M. Drilon said.
Drilon, however, said Congress could not fast-track approval of the enabling law for Charter changes before adjournment of sessions next month (March 17), because lawmakers still need to conduct more public hearings, before a committee report could be finally submitted for plenary consideration.
He cited time constraints when asked if the committee on constitutional amendments, which he chairs, would be ready with its report by March.
“Mahirap,” Drilon said. “Siguro by June 2017, because we will have another hearing in mid-February and two or more hearings out of town, tentatively.”
But he confirmed that during the recent Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting at Malacañang, the lawmakers conveyed to the Palace Congress leaders’ timetable for reaching a decision on the Charter-change issue.
“We estimate that by the third quarter of this year we should be able to decide,” Drilon said. “In other words, by the time that we open the Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress we should have that laid to rest.”
At the same time, Drilon reported that Malacañang will submit to the Congress a separate list of Palace priority bills.
“The Executive branch will also propose its own list,” Drilon said.
He added that the priority list is likely to include “the income-tax reform, emergency power to resolve the traffic, the free irrigation services, salary standardization, free Internet access, expanded absentee voting, the Philippine Passport Act amendments and national identification system bills.”
“We also want to strengthen the rule of law and a working justice system through the indexation of the Revised Penal Code, the Government Procurement and Reform Act, the amendments to the Corporation Code, as well as the endo bill, or the measure banning the practice of cutting short the services of a worker just to avoid employing him on a permanent basis. Those are some of the items that we have included in our legislative agenda,” the senator said.
Drilon reported that “both houses of Congress have submitted this common list to the Executive and the Executive will look at this, and they will have their own list.”
“In the next 60 days, we should come up with the agenda, which we will work on for 17th Congress. This is without prejudice to other bills which each senator may propose,” he added.
Drilon disclosed that Palace officials and Congress leaders also agreed to closely monitor the progress of the bills.
“There will be monitoring. That is why, upon my suggestion, we will meet every quarter,” Drilon said. “But in between, there should be an Executive committee that will monitor the developments in each item as we go along.”
In an earlier interview, Drilon indicated Palace officials and Congress leaders also have yet to agree on the mode of amending the Constitution—through Congress as a constituent assembly or by elected delegates to a constitutional convention—to lift existing restriction on foreign ownership of business in the country.