By Charissa Luci-Atienza
House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas assured that the plenary debates on Charter change or Cha-cha will not be put on the back burner even as the House deliberates on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by March next year.
Fariñas said the passage of the BBL and the creation of the Philippine Federal Constitution are both priorities of the Lower Chamber.
“Sabay yan (Both will be simultaneously tackled). Of course, with BBL, there is a deadline. The Cha-cha discussions already started and we’ve conducted hearings, ” Fariñas replied after he was asked if the passage of the BBL will be prioritized over the Charter change.
He noted that some members of the Senate, particularly Senate President Koko Pimentel were “willing to consider” the option of simultaneously tackling the BBL and the proposed constitutional amendments.
“Kung may mga constitutional provisions na tatamaan dun sa BBL, may mag-agree dun but, for example, there are some constitutional constraints to it. Sabi naman ni Speaker, pwede namin isama na yan doon sa Cha-cha para isabay sa barangay elections kung sakali,” he said.
During the second Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting on August 29, 2017, House and Senate leaders agreed to jump-start the deliberations on proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Fariñas said they are eyeing to pass the BBL on third and final reading before Congress adjourns on March 21, 2018.
The chamber is scheduled to conduct out-of-town public consultations on the peace measure, particularly in affected areas, he said. “March 21 is our target for its approval on third reading,” he said.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, urged Fariñas, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, to calendar for plenary debate and approval the House joint resolution for the convening of a Constituent Assembly.
“We have to approve it before Congress can proceed to amend the Constitution,” Mercado said.
He said they will likely approve the Philippine Federal Constitution next year.
The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments was supposedly eyeing to approve the Federal Constitution last November.
Mercado said his panel is now preparing the guiding “draft” for the Constitutional Assembly proper.
The Mercado panel has created four technical working groups to consider the inputs and concerns of various stakeholders in drafting the new Philippine Federal Constitution.
After the committee passes the new draft Charter, it will hand over the new Federal Constitution to the House Committee on Rules and will endorse it for plenary debates and approval.
To make the switch to federalism, the three-decades-old 1987 Constitution must first undergo amendments. The House leadership’s preferred method to accomplish this is via Constituent Assembly.
Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez earlier said they are targeting to put in place a new Federal Constitution by the end of Duterte’s term in 2022. He maintained that they are keen to convene the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) “by first quarter of 2018” to debate and scrutinize the draft Charter.
President Duterte already created a 25-man commission to make a careful study and prepare a draft Federal Constitution.
Tags: BBL, Cha-cha BBL will be tackled simultaneously — House leader, Charter change, House Majority Leader, Legislative Executive Development Advisory, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Federal Constitution, proposed constitutional amendments
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