What is the Con Ass and What Can We do About It
Young Public Servants
Young Public Servants
Our Constitution, the fundamental law of the land, can be changed in three ways. One is through a Constitutional Convention where delegates are elected by the people. This is how our 1987 constitution was drafted. Second is through an initiative where twelve percent (12%) of the total registered voters can sign a petition for charter change. Each legislative district must be represented by at least three percent (3%) of its registered voters. And finally, through a Constituent Assembly where Congress (House of Representative and the Senate) transforms itself into a body that changes or amends the constitution. This is more popularly referred to today as the Con Ass.
The debate today is not whether Con Ass is a valid way to change the constitution. It is. Rather, it is the way the House of Representatives formed the Constituent Assembly. In our current constitution it simply states that the Constituent Assembly is formed by a vote of 3/4 of all the members of Congress. It is not stated if the vote is done separately in the House of Representatives and Senate. A 3/4 vote means 176 congressmen and 17 senators voting separately or 196 congressmen plus senators voting as one.
House Bill 1109 was passed on 2 June 2009 with a vote of majority of the Congressmen present. The way this resolution was passed has been questioned by many as unconstitutional. It does not follow the process written out to form a constituent assembly. Only the Supreme Court can now decide whether this is Constitutional or not.
Changing our constitution is a valid exercise of our democracy but the question to ask is this: Do we need to change it now? And do we trust our Congressmen to amend it in the interest of the people. We are in the midst of gearing up for a 2010 Presidential election. 57% of the voting population is made up of youth and young professionals. If there is increased political participation among the youth then we carry the key in leading effective change in the country. And we would want to be a part of any discussion that changes our Constitution.
Young Public Servants works to build a nation of Filipino youth engaged in Good Governance, the foundation of which should be Good Citizenship. As a member of Youth Vote Philippines, YPS believes that engaging more Young Filipinos to register and vote provides the best anchor for sustained and increased political participation. In the next couple days we should all do one or all of the following:
(1) Read HB 1109
(2) Be updated about moves to change the constitution
(3) Engage your friends and family in discussions about what scenarios the Con Ass can bring
(4) Continue this discussion online – social networking sites, blogs – get your opinion out
(5) Get involved in activities where you can express your opinion or show support (www.yps.org. ph will provide a list of activities you can join as activities are organized).
(6) Know if your district representative voted for HB 1109 or not
(7) Attend the Con Ass forum at the Ateneo (today at 4 pm)
(8) Organize your own fora in your schools and communities
(9) Work harder at getting more young voters registered and engaged to vote in 2010
(10) Visit www.youthvotephilippines.com and www.yps.org.ph
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*House Bill 1109 is a resolution calling upon the members of congress to convene for the purpose of considering proposals to amend or revise the constitution upon a vote of three fourths of congress
*There are 216 district representatives and 22 party-list representatives for a total of 238 representatives. Including the senate (23) this makes a total of 261.