Con-ass or Con-con? Depends on the type of reforms pushed for
If our lawmakers are truly convinced that amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution would be a boost to our economy, then they should get their act together and exercise their power as a constituent assembly (con-ass).
Their one and only job here is to agree on how to phrase the proposed amendments. The Commission on Elections will take care of the plebiscite. The rest is up to us, voters.
From numerous televised Charter change or Cha-cha debates, we’ve learned that there are two plausible modes of reforming our Constitution, con-ass or constitutional convention (con-con). Unfortunately, lost in all those congressional hearings is the fact that the choice between the two modes will ultimately depend on the type of reform contemplated.Simply put, if the plan merely covers a specific provision or a small set of prescriptions, then a con-ass would be appropriate. On the other hand, if the intent is to overhaul the Constitution, or even replace it altogether, then a con-con would be absolutely essential.
It is worth mentioning that the 1987 Constitution has made a distinction between the kind of reform that can be pursued, namely, amendment or revision. And so, the con-ass mode would be more appropriate when pursuing an amendment, for instance, inserting the words “as may be provided by law” in certain economic provisions of the Charter. Whereas, it must be via the con-con route if revision is intended, such as shifting to a federal system or a parliamentary form of government.
Lawmakers should be thrilled that they can now proceed with their committee hearings totally focused on reform work. But they should also shed the hubris that killed previous Cha-cha attempts by adopting a more strategic mindset.
The 1987 Constitution requires that the Senate and the House of Representatives vote separately. The voting threshold for each chamber is three-fourths of all its members. Once this is attained, the next step for both chambers is to set the schedule for a plebiscite where the electorate can either reject or ratify the proposed amendment. It is not unreasonable to think that this entire process can be accomplished this year.
If lawmakers have other reform ideas in mind and will not commit to focusing solely on the economic provisions, then the process outlined here will not be applicable. Sadly, constitutional reformists will just have to live with another deadlock between the two chambers of Congress.
Michael Henry Yusingco
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.