Senate eyes charter change committee report by March

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — The Senate is eyeing releasing its report on charter change by next month, Constitutional Amendments Committee Chair Kiko Pangilinan said Wednesday.

However, he clarified that it was a "working target" discussed between him and Senate President Koko Pimentel. Other senators have yet to weigh in on the timetable.

"We're working on a March timetable wherein the committee would have completed its hearings and we will be working on a committee report," Pangilinan told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"If other senators feel otherwise, we will have to do the necessary pencil pushing and going back to the drawing board," he added.

The Senate is still conducting its hearings on charter change, as the House of Representatives pushed for a constituent assembly. The two chambers are debating as to whether they should vote jointly or separately.

Related: Alvarez: Word war with senators not serious, just for fun

However, Pangilinan said the target date also depends on the Lower House's decision.

"If the House of Representatives insists it should be voting jointly, what's there to work for in terms of a target? The Senate will simply not agree on voting jointly, if it is a constituent assembly," he said.

The Senate is still ironing out possible consultations with communities or sectors in the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Pangilinan added.

This comes on top of potential input from the 19-member consultative committee set to review the 1987 Constitution. The committee is led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Related: Senators welcome consultative committee to review Constitution

Pangilinan said the hearings and report will not be rushed, adding he was even willing to lose his position amid pressure to deliver charter change as soon as possible.

"Well, my commitment is to process it correctly... Ang sa akin in the end, kung hindi sila natutuwa [For me... if they're not pleased], they can always remove me," the opposition lawmaker said.

"And I don't mind... I will do what is right. Hindi natin mamadaliin, pero hindi natin pipilitin at pupuwersahin [We won't rush it, but we won't force it]," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte campaiged on a promise of a shift to federalism, a form of government that allows for more autonomy in local government units. However, critics point out it could strengthen political dynasties, and not be economically sustainable for poorer regions.

Related: Prioritize fiscal decentralization, reform before federalism - expert

The House of Representatives pushed for a May 2018 plebiscite, which the Commission on Elections has since said was not feasible.

Related: Comelec: May 2018 charter change plebiscite impossible

Watch The Source's full interview with Pangilinan here.