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Cha-cha via con-con a 'disservice' to Filipinos, says Enrile

Amending the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional convention would be a "disservice" to Filipinos as it would cost billions of pesos, Presidential Legal CounselJuan Ponce Enrile said Wednesday.

“To do a constitutional convention instead of a constituent assembly will be a disservice to the people of this country. It will burden the taxpayers too much," Enrile told a Senate hearing on the proposed Charter change.

"To have a constitutional convention will entail billions of pesos to the work that can be done simply by Congress through con-ass (constituent assembly) form."

A former Senate president, Enrile also warned against the Resolution of Both Houses passed by the House of Representatives.

"You will have to elect the members who may not even know what government is, who may yet become tools of incumbent political powers in the country," he said.

On top of this, Enrile said public funds that will be used for salaries of the delegates and the operational expenses in a con-con are enough to build several school buildings, houses, and irrigation canals.

"My god! We are not that rich to be throwing away money for a simple amendment of the Constitution," he said. "There is nothing esoteric with these amendments that the experienced legislators cannot do."

"Bakit nating gagawing con-con ang pag-aamyenda ng ating Saligang Batas kung ang ilalagay lang natin na panibagong dagdag sa ating Constitution ay 'unless otherwise provided by law'? Hindi ba magagawa, matatalakay ng Kongreso 'yung clause na 'yon?" Enrile asked.

"Kung 'di maintindihan ng Kongreso 'yung 'unless otherwise provided by law', eh ano pa ang maiintindihan niyo?"

(Why should we use con-con in amending the Constitution if we'll just add the phrase 'unless otherwise provided by law'? Can't Congress do it? If Congress can't understand the phrase 'unless otherwise provided by law,' what can Congress understand?)

Enrile attended the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes on the House-approved Resolution of Both Houses, which seeks to amend the Charter via con-con.

In his opening statement, Enrile said he attended the hearing in his personal capacity and not as presidential legal counsel.

Before attending the hearing, Enrile said he sought permission from President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to face the Senate panel as a resource person — a request which the President granted.

Moreover, the former Senate president expressed full support to Senator Robin Padilla’s resolution seeking to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the Charter that he tagged as "antiquated."

"I think your agenda, your direction is the right thing. I read some of the drafts and proposals that you want to do and to make as a part of our Constitution. And If I were in this House, at this time, I would have supported you 101 percent because those are the most important things that must be done to make this country progressive, safe, and modernized," Enrile said.

JPE for nuclear energy

But Enrile suggested including amendments to the Constitution which will remove the prohibitions on the use of nuclear energy.

"We must now remove the restriction imposed by the Cory administration on this country and her people not to have any nuclear in the country. I think, in my personal opinion, that is the most serious and unwanted provision of the Constitution," he said.

Enrile explained that nuclear energy would help a small country like the Philippines against the superpowers.

“If we can afford it, we should also have nuclear weapons so that our people will not be trampled upon let alone made a 'tuta' or 'alipin' (lapdog or a slave) of other countries. We must be sure that we make our people equal if not better than others,” Enrile said.

Apart from using it for defense, Enrile said nuclear would also help the country's energy security.

“We need to have an alternative fuel to run our economy because oil and natural gas are finite things, the supply is dwindling and those that were lucky enough to have these raw materials abundantly in their country, will make it very difficult to be available to those of us who do not have it,” he said.

Further, Enrile said political provisions can be separated from proposals to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution as this "will take time to handle." —KBK, GMA Integrated News