'Easier, cheaper' con-ass to appease Senate, business groups – solon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — A House leader believes a constituent assembly (con-ass) will make charter change more agreeable to the Senate and big business groups.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' Politics As Usual on Wednesday, Deputy Speaker Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales said con-ass would allay concerns on constitutional amendments — including the cost of a convention, which had been estimated at a minimum of ₱14 billion.

"Ito yung pinakamadali. Con-ass - wala na tayong eleksyon, wala na tayong con-con delegates. Number two, pwede na itong isabay sa barangay at SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections. And number three, makakatipid po tayo ng ₱14 billion," the lawmaker said.

[Translation: It's the easiest. Con-ass - we won't have elections anymore, we won't have con-con (constitutional convention) delegates anymore. Number two, it can be held simultaneously with the barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections. And number three, we would save ₱14 billion.]

In con-ass, sitting legislators will propose amendments to the Constitution while in con-con, people will elect delegates who will amend the charter.

The House of Representatives on March 14 overwhelmingly approved the implementing bill on con-con. 

Business groups, however, have urged Congress to reconsider the proposed con-con, saying it would cost too much and could spook investors.

Ball in Senate's hands

Gonzales maintained that con-ass would also ease the Senate's concern that con-con would have plenary powers, and guarantee that only economic provisions of the Constitution would be touched.

"They're always asking our political reforms. Ang discussion namin ay only economic provisions, para hindi po tayo maligaw [Our discussion is only economic provisions, so we don't get lost]," he said.

Gonzales added that the two chambers of Congress could also agree on separate voting.

"Nasa Senado na po 'yan [It's up to Senate], with Senator Robin Padilla and PDP-Laban members in the Senate. I think they are all very supportive," he said.

Meanwhile, Leyte 4th District Rep. Richard Gomez questioned why the Senate is hesitant on charter change.

"House overwhelmingly passed a modality already to amend the Constitution, and hindi niyo papansinin sa Senado [it is ignored at the Senate]?" he asked during the same interview.

Gomez also described the lack of traction in the Senate as a "disservice" to Filipinos, as he underscored the importance of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution to boost employment and job security.