Palace to Congress: Listen to ConCom chair, reconsider House's draft federal charter

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — Malacañang on Friday asked lawmakers to reconsider the proposed federal constitution approved by the House of Representatives, saying it could be rejected by the people.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted the objections raised by former Chief Justice and Consultative Committee (ConCom) chairman Reynato Puno, who described the House's draft as "bogus federalism." Puno also noted that the proposed charter removed the term limits of the members of Congress and dropped the anti-political dynasty provisions in the version endorsed by ConCom.

"I hope Congress would listen to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno and open themselves for amendments," he said in a press briefing. "Otherwise, there might be the danger of people rejecting the proposed amendments to the Constitution and that would be a waste of people's money."

The Lower House on Tuesday passed the controversial charter, roughly three months after it was filed by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies. 

However, senators are not so keen on charter change, with some saying the proposed new constitution was as "good as dead." They expressed suspicion that if passed, Arroyo planned to use the new constitution to stay in power. The former President denied this speculation.

Puno told CNN Philippines in October that the House's draft did not create federal states but only gave Congress the power to create them. 

READ: ConCom chair: House version of charter is not 'real' federalism  

"This cannot be given by a law passed by Congress. That is the essence of federalism. In this House version, there's no allocation of powers between the federal government and the states," he noted.

Puno was among  22 legal experts appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the ConCom to review and recommend changes to the 1987 Constitution.

Panelo on Friday said the House should not have disregarded the draft crafted by ConCom or any other body that submitted proposals on amending the Constitution.

"One does not have a monopoly of ideas or amendments to the Constitution," Panelo said.

He raised the possibility of having multiple drafts submitted in a plebiscite from which the public could choose.

"I have a suggestion, if it's feasible, all of the drafts - these should be submitted to the people and let the people decide which draft is good for them," Panelo said.

He said the President has said in a Cabinet meeting that he would campaign against the ratification of a proposed federal constitution "that is against the interests of the people."

The shift to federalism was among the promises Duterte made during his 2016 presidential campaign. He believes it would pave the way for a more equitable distribution of wealth and political power throughout the regions and bring lasting peace in Mindanao.