Alvarez asks constituents to back Du30 federal gov’t; Colmenares warns Cha-cha move to serve lawmakers’ interest

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File photos of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (frpm Philstar) and Bayan Muna chair Neri Javier Colmenares (from his Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines — Sounding certain on the emergence of a new Constitution and the shift to a federal government, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called on his constituents in Davao del Norte’s first district to give their all-out support for the initiative.

Wearing shorts on his 60th birthday, Alvarez faced his constituents and urged them to help make come true President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise.

“This year, 2018, we will revise our Constitution for a shift to a federal form of government. Let us unite and support this initiative of the President,” he told supporters, friends and well-wishers at the New Tagum City Hall on Tuesday, January 10.

The lower chamber leader said that revising the 1987 Constitution and shifting to a federal form of government through a constituent assembly would be a priority at the House of Representatives this year.

Alvarez was one of the authors of a House resolution to convene the Senate and the House into a constituent assembly to initiate reforms in the charter.

The measure will be the subject of debates anew in plenary when sessions resume on Monday, January 15.

Several measures are also pending at the committee level seeking the revision of the Constitution.

In a separate statement, former party-list lawmaker and current Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Javier Colmenares said a number of provisions in the proposed new Constitution in Resolution of both Houses No. 8 (RBH 8), authored by representatives Aurelio Gonzales and Eugene De Vera would benefit House members, such as a provision that would exempt the President and members of Congress from paying income tax.

“The proposed Cha-cha will benefit members of Congress and they cannot convene a constituent assembly which will draft a self-serving Constitution. We ask Congress not to push through with its planned con ass,” Colmenares said.

Under Section 15, Article XVII of proposed new Constitution of RBH 8, congressmen, senators, and even the President, are exempted from paying income tax.

The proposed Section 15 reads, “Until the Federal Congress provides otherwise, the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice, the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, Justices of the Supreme Court, Chairpersons of the Constitutional Commissions shall continue to receive the annual salaries that they are presently receiving at the time of the ratification of the Constitution without any income tax deductions.”

“I do not think any one can argue that this is not self-serving. While ordinary taxpayers have to struggle for years to lower income tax, members of Congress did not just lower, but exempted themselves from paying income tax in one fell swoop,” Colmenares said.

“Why should high salaried top officials be exempted from income tax while ordinary people pay taxes. They cannot convene themselves into a con ass and exempt themselves from paying income tax. The people will not accept con ass,” he added.

Colmenares said this version of Charter change proposed under RBH No. 08 “is the worst Cha-cha ever, and allowing Congress the power to insert self-serving provisions will only exacerbate the problems of the Filipino people.”