Senate panel kicks off hearings on Cha-cha

MANILA — A Senate panel on Thursday began consultations to amend the 1987 Constitution discussing the plan to shift to a federal form of government and which mode of Charter change (Cha-cha) for would be best for the country.

Consultations were presided by Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, Chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes.

Present were representatives from the academe, business community, local government officials, civil society organizations, sectoral groups, and constitutional experts.

During the hearing, the committee members tried to determine whether or not there was need to amend the Constitution to which Drilon later said it was agreed that there definitely was.

“The consensus is there is a need, after 30 years, to review the Constitution,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.

Also tackled was the best mode for amending the charter — whether a constitutional convention (con-con), or a constituent assembly (con-ass) was best.

Until now, lawmakers from both chambers remain divided whether to amend the Constitution via con-con or con-ass.

Drilon pointed out that those in favor of con-con stressed wider participation since delegates can come from various sectors. It also lessen the likelihood of control by ruling parties since delegates will be elected in a non-partisan election. Meanwhile those in favor of con-ass prefer it for being faster and less expensive.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously said he preferred con-ass, saying it is a faster and cheaper mode to amend the Constitution.

“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,” he said.

A call to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution was also discussed particularly the interest of groups to ease economic restrictions that will encourage more investors and further fuel economic growth.

“These are some of the issues that we have raised. The discussion of the substance of the amendment was only brought up,” he said.

Drilon meanwhile said that a more detailed discussion will be held once the panel has finally decided to amend the Constitution.