Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Arroyo backs Con-con bill, says Palace ally

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:21:00 01/06/2010

Filed Under: Charter change, Constitution, Legislation, Elections

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100106-245748/Arroyo-backs-Con-con-bill-says-Palace-ally

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is pushing a bill seeking the election by October of a constitutional convention (Con-con) and is considering putting it on the agenda in a proposed special session to ensure its passage, Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said Tuesday.

House Bill No. 6975 is up for second reading in the lower chamber and its passage has been given priority by Ms Arroyo’s allies and even critics who are coauthors of the bill.

In a text message, Gonzales, the House assistant majority leader, said he could not foresee the bill being passed by the Senate.

“I’m really at a loss on how the Con-con will have a chance even in the remote possibility that it is approved by the House. It’s not a priority bill of the Senate,” Gonzales said.

“With the official campaign period for national positions looming, I think it’s dead. And I’m quite sure the President will call a special session for it.”

Both the House and the Senate leadership have expressed support for a special session if the 14th Congress in its final working days from Jan. 18 to Feb. 5 fails to legislate the administration’s priority bills.

“Personally, I think majority of the House members will support the Con-con bill,” Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said in a text message.

HB 6975 seeks to implement concurrent resolutions of the Senate and House of Representatives calling for a convention to amend the 1987 Constitution and appropriate funds for the exercise.

It is coauthored by 51 representatives, including four LP members—Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, Iloilo Rep. Neil C. Tupas Jr. and Camarines Norte Rep. Liwayway Vinzons Chato.

Oct. 25 election

The bill calls for the election on Oct. 25 of one delegate in every legislative district to the yearlong convention.

It says candidates should have no political party affiliations, should have resigned from public office if they occupy one, and are barred from running for office or getting appointed to a political post a year after the convention’s adjournment.

The bill sets the first session of the 303 delegates on the third Monday of November this year at 10 a.m. at the session hall of the House of Representatives.

HB 6975 emerged as the popular alternative to the constituent assembly bill, which proposed the joint and not separate voting of the two chambers, after Ms Arroyo’s allies failed to pass the controversial measure last year due to public pressure.

It was drafted and approved for plenary voting months before Ms Arroyo filed her candidacy for the second congressional district of Pampanga.

Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said that the last-minute drive to approve the bill was part of the President’s grand plan, anchored on her entry into the 15th Congress to spearhead Charter change to “create safety nets” after her term.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said the Ms Arroyo’s undue interest in HB 6975 showed that this was part of her scheme to return to power, possibly as prime minister.

Casiño said in a text message the initiative would “benefit the incumbent members of Congress if they become a transition parliament.”

‘Futile, useless effort’

Speaker Prospero Nograles has conceded that lawmakers faced time constraints, but vowed “to do it” in the remaining session days before Congress adjourns for the elections.

Senators Francis Escudero and Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday said there was no time for any constitutional amendments under the Arroyo administration.

“I don’t know anymore which planet they … are living in. It’s a futile and useless effort that I and the Filipino people will never allow or stand for,” Escudero said.

“It should be shelved,” Pangilinan said.

‘Up to Congress’

“We leave it up to Congress to proceed on this issue as best as they see fit in their collective wisdom as legislators,” Gary Olivar, a deputy presidential spokesperson, told reporters in a briefing.

Ms Arroyo, who is making an unprecedented run for Congress in the coming elections, may eventually join the congressional process to amend the Constitution if she wins, Olivar said.

“The President has her own plans to run, and perhaps join them (lawmakers) after she steps down. She may be part of the process when that happens,” he said.

Olivar, however, said that Ms Arroyo was more interested in Congress approving revenue-enhancement measures than the Con-con bill. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and TJ Burgonio

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100106-245748/Arroyo-backs-Con-con-bill-says-Palace-ally

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