Espinoza: Vested interests

HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez won’t wait for the action of the Senate. He will proceed with Charter change and for the shift to a federal form of government. But why the haste?

In a press conference on Monday, Speaker Alvarez said the Upper and Lower Houses do not need to convene as a constituent assembly (Con Ass) to amend the Constitution. He said the 1987 Constitution does not say so. The statement even contradicted the position of the members of the majority in the House who want a Con Ass together with the Senate.

Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, urged the Senate to decide on their preferred mode of amending the 1987 Constitution. The Senate is yet to act on it.

Alvarez cited Section 1, Article 17 of the 1987 Constitution that states: “Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: 1. The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or 2. A constitutional convention.”

The Speaker is perhaps correct that the Constitution is silent on the matter of a joint session by the Senate and the House to revise or amend the Constitution. But as commonly understood, the word “congress” as mentioned in Section 1 of Article 17 of the Constitution pertains to both houses. Meaning, it will be a joint session.

However, the senators want separate voting because they are outnumbered by House members. So Speaker Alvarez used Section 1, Article 17 of the Constitution to his advantage.

Besides, some senators, particularly Sen. Ping Lacson, don’t favor a total overhaul of the 1987 Constitution. They favor amendments only to some provisions of the Constitution that are no longer in tune with the present time.

Since the Lower House has the three-fourths vote, Speaker Alvarez wants to proceed with the Charter change without the Senate. If the Senate is excluded, isn’t this what we call railroading?

According to Alvarez, they will proceed with the public hearing to listen to the sentiments of the people. After that, the proposed new constitution with the federal form of government will be submitted to the people in a plebiscite or referendum.

The answer to the question why the rush is because the midterm elections will be next year. The speaker earlier mentioned that there will be no elections next year. If he had his way, Cebu will already be part of the federal state of Visayas next year.

The House members represent their respective districts and have a three-year term. The senators are elected nationally and with a six-year term. In short, the Senate should have an equal say with the House because amendment of the Constitution is of a national significance.

Alvarez once said that personal interest should be set aside in favor on the paramount interest of the nation and the people. Tell that to the marines, a friend said. While Speaker Alvarez maybe sincere, but he cannot hide the fact that in their proposed amendments the term of office of representatives is raised to six years and the Office of the Ombudsman abolished.

Worse, the freedom of the press, speech, and expression enshrined in Section 4, Article 3 of the present constitution will be emasculated, if not changed to favor the paramount interests of the crooked politicians. So, where are we heading to? Is this the change that President Duterte envisioned for the poor majority?

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