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Pimentel to file resolution on constitutional assembly

Pimentel to file resolution on constitutional assembly

Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III — SENATE PRIB

SENATE PRESIDENT Aquilino L. Pimentel III is set to file a resolution authorizing the Senate to convene as a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) with the House of Representatives in order to “change the 1987 Constitution for federalism.”

“We will convene as Con-Ass. The purpose is to change the Constitution to adopt a federal form of government,” Mr. Pimentel said in Filipino in a radio interview last Saturday, Jan. 6.

According to the Senate President, part of the resolution shall be a provision that will not allow the extension of terms of current officials.

“There should be no holdover. Even the leaders during the transition should be elected,” said Mr. Pimentel who is also the president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

As for the priority measures, Mr. Pimentel reiterated that the Senate will tackle the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) along with the death penalty measure, which has been pushed for by his party-mate House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez.

“We will grant Speaker Alvarez’s wish. The death penalty will also be tackled. Of course, I will also convince my colleagues to discuss Con-Ass for federalism,” Mr. Pimentel said.

Amending the constitution through a Constitutional Assembly rather than through a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) will also be more beneficial for the country, according to Mr. Pimentel.

The lawmaker explained that Con-Con requires “P20 billion for campaigns and elections” alone.

“Con-Con will cost us ‘time and money,’ so ‘Con-Ass’ na lang,” Mr. Pimentel said.

Sought for comment, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said: “The estimates of convening a Constitutional Convention range from P7 billion (House) to P20 billion ([going by your quoting Mr.] Pimentel’s estimate). The estimates need validation, but they exceed the estimate for a constitutional assembly. The latter is considerably less costly in terms of lower salaries and wages, maintenance and other operating expenses, and capital spending. The life of the CA is known, while the life of the CC is indeterminate.”

“I don’t recall if there was a Cabinet decision on what option to adopt, but I recall that President (Rodrigo R. Duterte) expressed his preference for a CA in a National Security Council meeting last year,” Mr. Diokno also said.

Asked whether Congress can be trusted, Mr. Pimentel said, “Let’s make the process transparent.”

He added that the “debate is being monitored and announced by the media.”

In federalism, “the government will be more efficient because regions will be empowered to act on their issues instead (of) allowing Metro Manila to make all the decisions. Resources should also not go to Manila alone…. In our conclusion, regions will progress faster,” Mr. Pimentel also said.

The Senate President likewise said he is confident that federalism will take place under Mr. Duterte’s administration.

In “2019 there should be a plebiscite” for federalism, Mr. Pimentel said.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said in a separate interview that the Senate has not yet received a formal proposal from the Palace.

“The executive should submit what their proposal is. As of now, there is no official proposal to the Senate on federal system. I challenge Malacañang to tell us if they submitted a proposal. There is no official position from president,” Mr. Drilon said.

The opposition senator likewise said he is confident that his colleagues will not vote for the measure.

“There’s conflict of interest if you vote for no election. I’m confident that my colleagues in the Senate are decent enough that they will not vote. They have the moral standing not to be tempted,” Mr. Drilon said.


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