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House leaders bracing for ‘long, serious, tedious debates on Federal Constitution

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By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Leaders of the House of Representatives are bracing for “long, serious and tedious debates” on the proposed Federal Constitution.

EPA / MANILA BULLETIN

(EPA / MANILA BULLETIN)

Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said the draft Charter submitted by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) to the Lower Chamber on Wednesday will be exhaustively scrutinized.

“Because of conflicting opinions, beliefs and interest, I anticipate that the debate and deliberation will be long and tedious,” he said after the House committee on Constitutional amendments is set convene to tackle the draft Constitution of the Con-Com after President Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

Castro said among the controversial provisions that would stir debates are “anti-political dynasty provision, reorganization of the three Departments, sharing of regional states from state fund and the transitory provision.”

Castro maintained that federalism is the key to attain peace and development in the country and to uplift the living conditions of the Filipinos.

Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House committee on Constitutional amendments earlier said his panel will scrutinize the working draft, as they wait for President Duterte’s directive and plans on Charter change during his SONA.

Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia agreed with Castro, saying that “under the leadership of Chairman Roger Mercado, I expect serious, focused and productive deliberations on the proposed Federal Constitution.”

For his part, AKO BICOL partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe, president of the House partylist coalition bloc, also assured they will carefully deliberate and evaluate the proposed Federal Constitution.

“I can say that the draft will be carefully scrutinized, studied and deliberated by Congress many times over than it takes to pass a law. After all, what we will be approving is the fundamental law of the land from which the existence and nature of our government and all laws will be based,” he said.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who heads the Con-Com, on Wednesday submitted a copy of the draft Federal Constitution to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

Mercado said the House leadership may also hold a caucus to discuss the ConCom’s working draft.

“We also consider calling caucus of the entire Congress,” he said, noting that caucuses are usually the prerogative of the House Speaker.

Mercado maintained that he wants President Duterte declare his plans on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

“Let’s see what our President says in his SONA,” he said.

When asked if they would nod to President Duterte should the Chief Executive asks Congress to adopt ConCom’s draft Charter, Mercado said, “We will be guided by constitutional processes. Since it has political implications we have to defer with vital stakeholders and the circumstances that precipitate the events.”

Speaker Alvarez said the House will study and review the draft Federal Constitution.

He and Fariñas agreed that the House is not bound by the working draft as the consultative committee is just recommendatory or advisory body.

They said it is Congress, working as Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) , which has the authority to propose amendments to the Constitution.

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