May 2019 best date to hold plebiscite for federal Charter: Puno

MANILA — Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Tuesday said that there is no timeline for a plebiscite on the draft Federal Constitution noting that it was for the Congress to decide, but the best time to hold it would be in May 2019.

“We have no timeline. It’s up to Congress to deliberate on this draft Constitution,” Puno said in a chance interview on the sidelines of the Consultative Committee’s en banc session to vote on the draft of the proposed Federal Constitution in Pasay City.

“It should be by middle of next year or May 2019 so there will be time for the people to understand this new (Federal) Constitution,” he added.

Puno, Concom chairman, made this remark after the panel unanimously voted to approve the proposal after more than four months of deliberations.

The Concom is expected to submit the draft Federal Constitution to President Rodrigo R. Duterte on July 9. Afterwards, the Concom will also provide the public with a copy.

Puno, however, said that he is “not sure” if the President will approve the proposal noting that it is only “recommendatory.”

“I’m not sure. As I stated, they just told us to give our best effort to draft this Constitution and we did so. It’s up to him (the President). If he approves it, then he should endorse this to Congress,” Puno said.

“The Consultative Committee has been giving the media information on what we approved as the day goes by, and off and on, Secretary Roque makes his comment on the work of the Consultative Committee and so far we have not received any negative comment,” he added.

Ready to defend

Puno, meanwhile, said that the Concom is ready to defend its proposal before the Congress.

“I expect that Congress will hold hearings and will call members of the Committee to defend the proposed Constitution that they have drafted,” Puno said.

According to Puno, the heart of the draft Federal Constitution is allocation of powers between the Federal Government and the regional governments especially the division of the taxing powers.

“This is most important because it will spell the success or the failure of federalism which we installed in our Constitution,” Puno said.

“If the allocation of powers is wrong, you can expect a failure on the part of the federal government that we established,” he added.

Puno also allayed fears anew that a Federal Constitution allows Duterte to stay beyond the end of his term on 2022.

“We clearly addressed that in the transitory provision. We specifically stated there that there will be no term extension for President and Vice President,” Puno said.

“We’re not even sure whether he will accept the position of transitory president or the person who will preside in the transition to federal government. His term will end 2022 and that’s it. It’s not open-ended,” he added.