House leader: Charter change to cost ₱9.5 billion

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — Amending the Constitution would cost the government ₱9.5 billion if the election of delegates to the proposed constitutional convention would be held simultaneously with the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in October, a House leader said Wednesday.

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, gave an estimate of the costs to be incurred in pursuing charter change as plenary debates began on Resolution of Both Houses No. 6.

The measure, which Rodriguez's committee approved Tuesday, called for a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution.

Rodriguez said his committee consulted with Commission on Elections Chairman George Garcia on the estimated cost of holding an election for delegates to the convention - which, he noted, would only entail adding a line to the ballot to be used for the BSKE.

"₱1.5 billion and they can already implement the additional line in this particular election for delegates which will be at the same time as the barangay elections," the lawmaker said.

"Based on our computation, the expenses for our delegates and their constitution proper, it will be about ₱5 billion. And for the plebiscite, because it's a very small piece of paper, yes or no to the Constitution, we believe that a ₱3 billion budget based on the committee's understanding will be okay," he added.

Rodriguez said the amount "is miniscule compared to our ₱5.3 trillion budget and the transcendental importance of having a constitutional convention so that our people would have a new Constitution."

His estimate is more than the ₱331 million projected by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The committee chair also said he believes charter change is timely even as the economy recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it could ease certain provisions on foreign business ownership that could lead to more investments.