Even the leadership of the House of Representatives is apparently giving up on the possibility of holding a plebiscite for the Charter change (Cha-cha) initiative by May.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn F. Garcia the Third District of Cebu, at a news conference, said the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments needs more time to consolidate all the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution submitted by its four subcommittees.
“The leadership of the House of Representatives has set the initial deadline in submitting the proposed Charter amendments in a plebiscite for approval of the Filipino people for May 2018, but acknowledged that it may be extended if Congress cannot meet the requirements of the law. In that case, the plebiscite may be held simultaneously with the May 2019 elections. As such, the May 2019 elections will push through as scheduled,” she said.
“Our deliberations [on the proposed Cha-cha] at the committee level might take longer period of time…so it [the May 2018 plebiscite target] might not be a realistic target to reach,” Garcia added.
Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said that, while his original target date is to submit to the Filipino people the proposed Charter changes simultaneous with the May 2018 barangay elections, he is open to the possibility of moving the deadline to the 2019 midterm elections if necessary.
Moreover, like normal bills, Garcia said all the Cha-cha proposals of the four subcommittees will be submitted to the mother committee for another round of deliberation. After the committee deliberation, the bill’s committee report will also be transmitted to the plenary for approval. Garcia, however, assured the public that the committee is still at “full speed” on its task of crafting the proposed Charter amendments for a shift to federal form of government.
“The committee has received the respective reports of the four subcommittees earlier created and tasked to prepare drafts of proposed Charter change covering specific areas per subcommittee,” the deputy speaker added. “The proposed amendments of the four subcommittees are still undergoing deliberation by the mother committee [House Committee on Constitutional Amendments].”
Last week the leadership of both chambers of Congress agreed to pursue separately their amendments to the 1987 Constitution that will shift the country’s form of government to federalism.
The congressional leaders have forged an agreement to shift their attention from the more contentious issues on Cha-cha and, instead, try to first reach a consensus on the general features of the federal government being envisioned.
Once both chambers of Congress reach a consensus on the structure of the proposed federal government, the leadership of the lower chamber expects the rest of the discussions for Cha-cha between the House and the Senate to flow more smoothly.
Power of Congress
Meanwhile, Garcia reiterated that the manner of proposing amendments to the Constitution is exclusively reserved by the Filipino people to Congress of the Philippines.
“President Duterte’s creation of a consultative commission, composed of experts and headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, will provide lawmakers with invaluable inputs to the respective work of the House of Representatives and the Senate in preparing proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution,” she said. “But as its name suggests, the commission’s task is consultative. It’s role is purely to be consulted. Congress may consider the recommendation of the 19-man commission, as well as those of any citizen, and may decide to adopt or not adopt them.”
The consultative committee has been given six months to draft their proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
“[However] I do not foresee any crisis that will result in the consultative commission being at loggerheads with the House of Representatives,” she added.