By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators are appealing to their fellow lawmakers not to rush discussions on the proposed amendment of the 1987 Constitution and shift to federalism.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri urged proponents of federalism in Congress should not insist on taking up Charter change (Chacha) even as the Consultative Committee (ConCom) has submitted its draft federal constitution.
He maintained that Congress, anyway, is not bound to adopt the draft charter from the ConCom.
“Many are saying that we should rush the approval of the amendment of the Constitution because the ConCom report is finished. But you know that is just recommendatory. So we should study it carefully,” Zubiri said in a radio interview Saturday afternoon.
Zubiri stressed that the Constitution cannot be amended immediately, like any piece of legislation. Citing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law — which took them one year to approve — he said such a move repealing the system of government requires thorough deliberation.
“Let’s not rush it. I appeal to the proponents (of federalism), let us study this carefully. We cannot approve without thinking,” he said.
Zubiri said the majority senators are set to meet on July 24 to tackle how they should go about the draft charter. An all-senators’ caucus including members of the minority, is scheduled the next day.
The ConCom turned over to Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday the draft constitution for the government’s planned transition to a federal system. Sotto earlier said they would still have to wait for the official transmittal of the proposed charter from President Duterte.
But Sen. Francis Pangilinan, on Saturday, said he has decided to include in the Senate committee on Constitutional amendments and revision of codes committee’s deliberation the new constitution proposed by the ConCom.
He said ConCom chair and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno was invited anew in the hearing on Tuesday to shed light on the provisions of the draft federal charter. Framers of the 1987 Constitution and other legal luminaries were also attending the hearing.
“We’re already conducting hearings. So we don’t have to wait for the formal referral of Consultative Committee report. We can take it up, motu proprio, since it is already a public knowledge,” said Pangilinan, committee chair.
Pangilinan, however, clarified that the committee prioritizes to determine whether or not Chacha is necessary, citing the cold sentiment of the public toward the proposal.
He also questioned calls from Congress members to immediately take up Chacha. “We are wondering, what is this, is this forced? Why are we rushing to discuss this?” Pangilinan asked.
Zubiri and Pangilinan also agreed that floating a possible “no-election” scenario in 2019 does not contribute to the discussion.