Press Release
December 8, 2016

Opening Statement of Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon

On behalf of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and the Committee on Electoral Reforms and Peoples' Participation, the meeting is hereby called to order.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Today we shall discuss the four resolutions pertaining to the efforts to amend the Constitution:

1. Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, introduced by this representation, calls for a constitutional convention;

2. Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, introduced by Minority Leader Sen. Ralph Recto, asks Congress, as a constituent assembly, to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution;

3. Joint Resolution No. 1, introduced by Sen. Richard Gordon, proposes that Congress amend the restrictive and anti-competitive economic provisions of the Constitution; and

4. Senate Bill No. 128 introduced by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri calls for a constitutional convention

Apart from this hearing, this Committee intends to conduct hearings in Baguio, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, to get as wide a spectrum as possible of our people's views.

In these hearings, your committee will determine first, whether or not we need to amend the Constitution; second, if there is such a need, what is the best mode of amending the charter: by calling for a constitutional convention, or a constituent assembly; and third, in a constituent assembly, how will the two houses of Congress vote, jointly or separately; and, can Congress, as a legislative body, limit the powers of a constituent assembly. These are the principal issues which this Committee will seek the counsel of its resource persons.

Let me just state into the record some of the proposed amendments, which from media reports, would have interest in some quarters of our population .

First, on the form of government. As we are all aware, there is a push to shift from a unitary to a federal form of government. Proponents argue that a federal system will build a just and enduring framework for peace, inclusive development and good governance, since it requires a great deal of cooperation, mutual support, and adjustments in the relation between the federal government and the states.

Those who are opposed to the idea of federalism, on the other hand, argue that the federal structure will only serve to strengthen the power and political hold of local political dynasties and warlords. They also fear that a federal system will only pave the way for the fragmentation of an increasingly divided nation.

Another proposal is to shift from the presidential system of government, which sometimes results in a gridlock between the legislative and the Executive branches, especially when the leadership of these two departments belong to different political parties. Advocates for a shift to the parliamentary system tell us that these gridlocks prejudice the common good and bring about bad governance, or politics of compromise.

There are also those who would call to amend the economic provisions of our Constitution.

Those who clamor for liberalization of our economy believe that easing economic restrictions will encourage more investors and further fuel economic growth. Among others, they seek to review the nationality requirements in the: (a) exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources; (b) transfer and conveyance of alienable land; (c) operation of public utilities; and (d) ownership of educational institutions and mass media.

If your Committee is convinced that a constitutional amendment or revision is justified, it shall also propose the best mode to be adopted to carry out the changes - whether by Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly, or in a Constitutional Convention to be called for the purpose.

Those in favor of a Constituent Assembly prefer this mode because it is a faster, and less expensive process. Those who support calling for a Constitutional Convention, on the other hand, argue that cost should not be a factor when it comes to overhauling our Constitution. A Constitutional Convention will allow wider participation since delegates can come from various sectors. This lessens the likelihood of control by any ruling party, since the delegates will be elected in a non-partisan election.

Finally, this Committee must determine the manner of voting of the two houses. Copied from the amendatory provision of the Batasang Pambansa, a unicameral body, the present Constitutional provision raises the question relevant to our current bicameral system: whether the Senate and House of Representatives must vote jointly or separately.

For the record, President Rodrigo Duterte during the National Security Council meeting on July 27, 2016, expressed his preference for a Constituent Assembly, and agreed to a separate voting by the Senate and the House.

It must be emphasized that amendments to the Constitution is a constituent function granted by the Constitution itself only to Congress, which amendments will become effective only upon ratification by the people in a plebiscite. Can Congress, as a legislative body, limit the powers of a constituent assembly by specifying which provisions can be amended? Or, are the powers of the constituent assembly plenary?

To ensure that we engage the direct and active participation of Filipinos and cover the entire spectrum, we have invited representatives from the academe, business community, local government officials, civil society organizations, sectoral groups, and constitutional experts. Ladies and gentlemen, we live in very interesting times. I am sure all of us here are more than eager to step up to the plate. With that said, let us roll up our sleeves and get started.

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