Draft federal constitution still subject to scrutiny of lawmakers — Sotto

Published July 6, 2018, 2:48 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The contents of the Consultative Committee’s (Con-Com) draft federal constitution would remain a proposal unless Congress opts to adopt it.

This was according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III who, on Friday, maintained that the provisions of the draft charter for the proposed federal form of government are still subject to the scrutiny of lawmakers.

Senator Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines Joseph Vidal / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Vicente Sotto III
(Senate of the Philippines Joseph Vidal / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

“All that will be subject to the perspective of the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass). What is being presented is a framework of the federal proposal. Nothing is written in stone as of now,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.

Sotto made the clarification when asked to comment on Con-Com member Julio Teehankee saying that President Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo would not be prohibited from seeking reelection under the proposed federal constitution.

Likening it to a “reboot,” Teeehankee said Duterte and Robredo, whose terms will end on 2022, may be allowed to seek a fresh term lasting for four years.

Teehankee also said that under the new political system, two senators shall be elected from each of the proposed federal regions. The said federal regions, which would be governed by local officials in a parliamentary setup, would also be allowed impose their own taxes.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, said he does not approve of extending the Chief Executive’s term.

“(I) disagree as to allowing President Duterte to run again. That changes the present rules. Re(garding) VP Leni being allowed to run again, that is okay ’cause under present rules she can really run again,” Pimentel said.

The 1987 Constitution explicitly prohibits the President from seeking reelection. The Vice President, on the other hand, is allowed to serve for two successive terms.

Pimentel meanwhile says he sees “no problem” with the election of two senators per federal region and imposition of taxes by each federal state.

President Duterte repeatedly denied that he wants his term extended. The Palace, on Friday, reiterated this following Teehankee’s statements.

Sotto, anyway, believes that Duterte will not insist to Congress the draft federal constitution proposed by the Con-Com, especially that they have yet to study the proposals. Lawmakers are not bound to adopt the Con-Com draft.

“How can you adopt something you have not studied, reviewed or understood? Besides, knowing the President, he will not do that. He has never interfered with us. I doubt if he will interfere now,” Sotto said.

Sotto also maintained that a plebiscite for the draft constitution cannot be held mid-2019, as earlier posed by Con-com chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno. He said Congress leaders have not yet finalized and approved their calendar for the third regular session.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon thought that now may not be the right time to amend the 1987 Constitution.

“The questions assume that the Filipino people would want to amend the Constitution now. Or, instead of amending the Constitution now, which may result in a No-EL in 2019, would they want government to address first issues as rising prices, poverty, EJKs and peace and order, etc?” Drilon said in a text message.

Drilon noted that Congress may not be able to prioritize debates on the proposed Charter change since they will have to look into the 2019 budget once they resume sessions after Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.

The two Congress houses, he added, have yet to settle their dispute on the manner of tackling and voting on the proposed Charter amendments.

Drilon, however, said the draft may be used as a reference for their discussions.

The Con-Com tasked by Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution approved on Tuesday its draft federal charter. The proposal will be submitted to the President on July 9 in time for his state of the nation address.