Press Release
September 2, 2016

Don't pack Con-Com with 'federalism halleluiah squad'

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said he will not oppose the creation of a Constitutional Commission, calling it "a study group whose output will have to be submitted to Congress for consideration, and whatever Congress recommends will still have to be ratified by the people in a plebiscite."

But for the "Con-Com" to be credible, its membership must be drawn "from various sectors, all regions, from parties of different, even clashing, political persuasions, from Left to Right, from former outlaws to legal luminaries," Recto said.

"If it is packed by partisans whose marching order is to rubber-stamp pre-conceived plans, then it will have a serious credibility problem. If it is straitjacketed toward certain conclusions, then it will lose respect," Recto said.

"The Con-Com must have no prior biases, no script to be followed. For the discussion among members to be vibrant, it must be given complete freedom to revisit the basic law, find its weaknesses, and recommend the cures," Recto said.

One necessary element for the commission to do its work as "an impartial body" is to appoint known "personalities who have reservations about the proposal to shift to a federal form of government."

"If the commission will be overrun by the federalism halleluiah squad, then the independence required of such a body to do an important task is compromised from the very start," he stressed.

"And if the proposed commission will vote, upon exhaustive review, that a federal form of government is not feasible, then the one who formed it--Duterte, and proposed it--Alvarez, must respect the body's findings," Recto said.

Recto reminded Malacañang to follow the example of its previous occupants in commissioning experts to review the constitution's flaws.

"Presidents Estrada and Arroyo formed Charter study groups. Their members were given a free hand to study and recommend. Erap and GMA never attempted to influence their work. The members were never shepherded toward certain conclusions," Recto said.

"That must also be the code of conduct of the Duterte administration towards the proposed Con-Com. A 'hands off' policy so that its output is not tainted by a partisan political agenda," Recto said.

It is because of the precedents that such a body had been formed in the past that Recto said he is supporting the formation of "a multi-sectoral Con-Com" by an executive order.

"If it is truly independent and broad-based, then it can help distill and crystallize the areas in the constitution which need revision or changes. Malaking tulong 'yan sa House at Senate," Recto said.

Recto said that while the Con-Com is doing its work, "nothing prevents the Senate or the House from calling for hearings, consultations, debates on matters related to constitutional amendments."

"Hindi naman porke't na-form na yan ay mayroon nang legislative moratorium in discussing Charter change. Congress retains that right and initiative. Kaya nga yang Con-Com is just a Palace-formed study group. It doesn't shut down Congress from doing its work on that subject," Recto said.

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