Tuesday, January 5, 2010

House still at it, makes final bid for Cha-cha bill

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:55:00 01/05/2010

Filed Under: Congress, Charter change

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100105-245556/House-still-at-it-makes-final-bid-for-Cha-cha-bill

THE powers-that-be just refuse to give up on Charter change.

The leadership at the House of Representatives is making a final bid, before the current 14th Congress bows out, to pass a bill seeking to convene a constitutional convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution next year.

Speaker Prospero Nograles has shortlisted a Con-con bill that had been set for second reading before the House went into its long Christmas break, hoping that the Senate would “conform.”

“Time may not be on our side, but we will do it. All the standing and special committees, led by the committee on rules, are up to their respective mandates. We have work to do,” he said.

The House bill proposes to hold elections for some 303 Con-con delegates at the same time as the barangay elections set for October 2010.

The House has settled for the Con-con mode of constitutional change after the majority bloc failed to railroad the passage of a bill seeking to convene the two chambers of Congress into a constituent assembly that would vote jointly and not separately to amend the Constitution.

The proposals for a constitutional convention have been pending in the House for a long time. The current one is composed of a resolution calling for a Con-con and a separate bill authored by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga that sets down the mechanics and details for organizing a constitutional convention in 2010.

While there seems to be a consensus about the need for amending the Constitution, the manner of proposing such amendments has been plagued by many problems.

A strong campaign against Cha-cha has developed based largely on the issue that the incumbent crop of legislators should not take the lead in effecting constitutional change as their motives are suspect.

Some of the objections to President Macapagal-Arroyo’s decision to seek a congressional seat in 2010 is the suspicion that once in the House, she would push for Charter change to bring about a shift to a parliamentary system where she could then be in a position to take the prime ministership.

Politicians seeking the presidency or Senate seats also oppose Charter change because their terms of office may be cut short by any constitutional changes.

For a constitutional convention to be called, a vote of two-thirds of all the members of Congress is needed. But it is still unclear as to whether the two chambers should vote in joint session and jointly or separately.

Priority measures

Nograles has listed 16 measures for top priority in the 14th Congress’ last session, from Jan. 18 to Feb. 5.

They include bills on free legal assistance; the proposed Cybercrime Act and Anti-Money Laundering Law; instituting a self-sustaining forest management program, and reforms in land administration.

Priority bills that are in the committees are those proposing an electricity reduction rate; a 5-centavo regulatory fee and installation of an electric metering device for telecoms; the Build-Operate-Transfer Law of 2007; the development of the downstream natural gas industry; farmland as collateral; modernization of the healthcare delivery system; a national student loan program; rationalization of tuition increases; a magna carta for students; and a fair competition, or anti-trust, law.

Special session

Nograles said he was amenable to a proposal from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for Congress to hold a special session as more time would be needed to work on the bills that MalacaƱang wants Congress to approve into law.

“First, we must get the Senate to agree. Second, they must identify what priority measures they want to take up to merit a special session. Third, we should be able to assess from our peers whether we can get enough warm bodies to attend,” the Speaker said.

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100105-245556/House-still-at-it-makes-final-bid-for-Cha-cha-bill

No comments:

Post a Comment