I’M glad the Senate is holding out—for now, probably—on some issues once Congress transforms itself into a constituent assembly (Con Ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution. The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday, via Concurrent Resolution No. 9, to constitute Congress as a Con Ass to effect charter amendments.
Yesterday, the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of code conducted a public hearing attended by three former Supreme Court chief justices Hilario Davide Jr., Reynato Puno and Artemio Panganiban. This was a day after Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed a resolution convening the Senate into a constituent assembly. But there are hanging issues there.
The first one is on what the Senate would prefer, a Con Ass or a Con Con (constitutional convention), wherein the people would be given a chance to choose delegates to a convention that would amend the Constitution. When asked about the matter, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, said that he prefers a Con Con if the issue to be tackled is a shift to a federal form of government; but for amendments involving 3 or 4 points, Con Ass.
But even if vote houses would prefer a Con Ass, the matter of whether to hold a joint session or not and whether the Senate and the lower House would vote jointly or separately. Majority of the senators naturally oppose the act of voting jointly with the congressmen considering the disparity in the number of members.
So what we have is an impasse, which is good, considering the rush with which the House wants to effect charter change (cha-cha) and shift to a federal setup. In House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s timetable, he wants Congress to submit the already agreed amendments to a plebiscite in time with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in May. That’s only around four months away.
But why the haste? The obvious intention is to preempt the 2019 midterm elections and derail it (that’s the no election or no-el scheme). Consider that Alvarez is already talking about an extension of the terms of elective officials including himself under the proposed transition period to federalism. And the constitutional amendments itself may include a longer term for elective officials, congressmen included.
That’s why it’s good that the senators are holding out. A shift to a federal form of government is too important a matter to be done in haste and to be left solely to Congress. If the discussion on the mode of amending the charter and how the Con Ass would vote will take time, that’s the ideal. Every issue should be tackled in detail and not rammed on the throats of any legislator.
One senator already thinks the implementation of Alvarez’s timetable is achievable and declared that Cha Cha “is dead in the Senate.” “Clearly, we cannot do it in 10 session weeks, not to mention the possibility of the Senate being an impeachment court once again, not to mention we have to pass other laws as senators, as members of Congress,” Sen. Ralph Recto, a majority bloc member, said.
Again, it looks like the Alvarez timetable would be delayed. That’s good.