Con-com eyes academic qualifications for senators

If the members of President Duterte’s consultative committee (Con-com) would have their way, only Filipinos with at least a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent will be allowed to run for senator under the federal government.

In Thursday’s executive session, the Con-com members also agreed that senators should be elected per region.

Lawyer Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, who presided over Thursday’s executive session, said the agreement on the change in educational requirement was already as “good as passed,” although the committee is still to vote formally on Monday in its en banc session.

Under Section III, Article VI on the Legislative Department of the 1987 Constitution, no person shall be a senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, and on the day of the election, is at least 35 years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.

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“Yes, we had voting on academic qualifications for senators. Of course, there is a collatilla that it will also apply to the other officials in the government,” Ubalde-Ordinario said.

Two members, lawyers Reuben Canoy and Victor de la Serna, were not present during the voting on Thursday.

Asked on why they have considered the equivalence of baccalaureate degree, she noted it is because statistics say that only 10 percent of the population acquire college education.

“The solution there is, so that they won’t be disenfranchised like for example, IPs [indigenous peoples], many of them don’t go to school but that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what they have to do in the event that they are elected to the position of regional governors, for example. So, on the other hand, it is felt by the body that we must insist on some kind of academic qualifications to ensure that we have better quality leaders,” she said, adding that many people don’t have formal education, but they have acquired certain amount of abilities that can be converted to academic qualifications, such as cultural knowledge.

“In the government, there is such a thing as equivalency for those who want to be promoted, for example, but who have not achieved a certain level of postgraduate level of education; then they can call on their government experience to compensate for that lack of masters’ degrees, that’s equivalency,” she said.

Aside from the agreement on the change in the educational requirement for the senatorial position, it was also agreed that senators will be voted per region. However, the committee has yet to decide on the number of senators to be voted, since they still need to determine the number of states.

“The principle of electing senators per region is good as done. But the question is how many senators per region? There is no decision yet,” said Arthur N. Aguilar, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Reforms and Fiscal Administration.

“We are trying to keep the number low, so because we want to minimize the cost, we are balancing cost with the needs of representation,” Aguilar said.

The Con-com is set to vote on Monday on the political-dynasty provision. Previously, the committee voted to adopt a federal presidential form of government.

It was also agreed in consensus on Wednesday to include in the proposed revised constitution a “self-executing provision” that will regulate political dynasties, that no relative of an incumbent official up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity shall be allowed to run simultaneously and to succeed the incumbent official for positions of governor, mayor or district representative and other local officials. The Con-com has also agreed that the president and vice president will be elected as a team.

On Tuesday the committee has also agreed on a bicameral Congress.

 

 

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