‘WE’RE NO DUMMIES’
THE GREAT DEBATE. Commissioners Ronald Adamat and Carmen Pedrosa are locked in an animated discussion with a businessman from Bacolod City during the consultation on the change in the form of government Wednesday.
Commissioners debunk rubber stamp yarn
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
MEMBERS of the Consultative Commission (Con-Com) tasked to gather proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution brushed aside reports that their group is a rubber stamp of the Arroyo administration.
The Con-com conducted a consultation with various sectors on what are the possible amendments to the 18-year-old charter at Amigo Terrace Hotel Grand Ballroom yesterday.
Joji Ilagan-Bian headed the delegation which tackled proposed changes in the structure of the republic, form of government and national patrimony and economic reforms.
Early this week, several Con-Com members fear their efforts to go around the country might become a formality as they already approved a draft report on the change in the form of government.
But Lito Monico Lorenzana, Con-Com secretary-general, said they cannot become a rubber stamp commission “since we are only tasked to gather and study proposals from various groups around the country.”
“In fact, we are not receiving any salary or honorarium from our participation. Most of us left our day jobs to heed the President’s call to gather modifications to the Constitution. We are not government employees, we have nothing to gain instead the privilege to help the government,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana added the report that was voted upon by the commission members was just a pro-forma document on which to base the consultation-cum-debates. “After three months, that draft report will be amended and forwarded to the President who in turn will submit it to Congress.”
Atty. Ma. Romela Bengzon said they were only invited by the President “and our only commitment was a pledge of support for the efforts to revise the Constitution.”
Bengzon added their proposals will be accepted by Congress based on their talks with several congressmen.
Commissioners Ronald Adamat and Carmen Pedrosa said the differences in opinion among the Con-Com members and in the consultations prove the independence of the commission.
“If we were paid then maybe they can say we are a rubber stamp group. But then we are not paid for this,” Adamat added.
Pedrosa, who has been supporting for charter change for several years, said she joined the commission upon invitation of Mrs. Arroyo “because this is what I have been advocating for.”
Former Minister Vicente Paterno was more emotional in his explanation: “I shed off my interests in various businesses just to join the commission. I am doing for the future of my family. So, am I a rubber stamp of the President? No (I’m not). But for my family, yes.”
The Con-Com was formed by virtue of President Arroyo’s Executive Order 453 and composed of businessmen, lawyers, former public officials, journalists and political and social scientists.
Focusing on the three issues, the commissioners divided themselves into three groups to spearhead the panel discussions.
Paterno, Bengzon and Francis Chua led the panel on national patrimony and economic reforms; Pedrosa, Adamat and Sister Luz Emmanuel Soriano was in charged with the form of government; the group of Bian, Emily Marohombsar and Rey Magno Teves handled the discussions on the structure of the republic.
Based on the initial data gathered by the commissioners, majority of those who attended the consultation agreed to change the formats of the republic and the government from presidential-unitary to federal-parliamentary. The latter proposal gained much support with the presence of pro-federal figures like lawyer Leopoldo Causing of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines.
But when it comes to liberalizing vital sectors of the economy to foreign investors, Bengzon said Ilonggos are more conservative than Cebuanos.
“Cebuanos are more aggressive when it comes to business that they are willing to allow foreigners to wholly own public utilities, media and education entities and real properties. But Ilonggos are different. Except for agreeing to repeal the Filipino first policy, opening up of the education sector and public utilities to foreign capitalists, Ilonggos don’t want foreigners to buy lands and own business by themselves. Capitalists can rent but they cannot own,” Bengzon explained.
The commissioners will fly to Davao City today for the Mindanao leg of the consultations.
The Visayas leg opened in Cebu on Monday headed by Con-Com chairman Jose Abueva.