By Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz

THE HOUSE of Representatives is pushing through with constitutional amendments even without the Senate, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said on Monday, Jan. 22.

Seal of the Philippine House of Representatives

In a press briefing, Mr. Alvarez said the House will no longer wait for the Senate to join them in a constituent assembly as the term itself does not exist in the 1987 Constitution.

“Ano bang ‘assembly?’ Saan ba nakalagay ’yan sa Constitution? (What ‘assembly?’ Where in the Constitution is it indicated?)” Mr. Alvarez said.

Article 17, Section 1 of the Constitution reads: “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.”

Section 2 reads, in part: “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein.”

“Hindi kami mag-aantay. Tuloy-tuloy lang ang public hearing namin (We will not wait. We are just continuously conducting public hearings),” Mr. Alvarez said.

He added: “Hindi, hindi na mangyayari ’yan eh (constituent assembly). Kasi balik pa rin tayo sa letra ng Constitution. Basahin niyo, Article 17, basahin niyo anong nakalagay diyan? At saka proposal lang. Hindi naman ito ordinaryong legislation na sabihin mo bicameral, approved sa ’min (House of Representatives), approved sa Senado, tapos pupunta sa Presidente for his signature. Hindi ganon ang proseso.”

(No, constituent assembly will no longer happen. Because we have to go back to the letter of the Constitution. Read up, Article 17, what was written there? Anyway, that was just for proposal. It’s not an ordinary legislation with bicameral, approved here in the House of Representatives, approved in the Senate, then forwarded to the President for his signature. The process is not like that.)

Asked what mode of constitutional amendment is currently in effect, the Speaker said: “Section 1, number 1. Ang number 2 ay constitutional convention. Ang 3, people’s initiative. May con-ass bang nakalagay dito?Wala. Votes lang, three-fourths of all its members. (Section 1, number 1. Number 2 is constitutional convention, 3 is people’s initiative. Is there any con-ass indicated here? … Nothing. Just votes, three-fourths of all its members.)”

The Speaker also noted that the Constitution explicitly stated joint voting in approving or revoking the President’s declaration of martial law but the same terms were absent in the provision on amendments and revision.

Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution stated, in part: “The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

Asked if the explanation of the framers of the Constitution should be considered, Mr. Alvarez said: “’Yun ang problema sa kanila. Hindi nila gagawin ’yung trabaho nila nang maayos and yet magke-claim sila that this is the best Constitution daw in the world (That is the problem with them. They did not do their jobs well and yet they will claim that this is the best Constitution in the world).”

In a Senate hearing last Jan. 17, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution,former chief justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., said that while the present Charter may not be perfect, it was “the best in the world.”

“Kasalanan nila ’yan eh. Itanong mo kay Davide ’yan. O kay Christian [S.] Monsod [another member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission]. Bakit hindi nila kinumpleto ’yan? Trabaho nila ’yon eh tapos ngayon tayo sisihin nila? Dapat sila sisihin niyan,” Mr. Alvarez further stated.

(That is their fault. Ask Davide that. Or Christian Monsod. Why didn’t they complete that? That was their job and now they are blaming us? They should be blamed for that.)

Meanwhile, the House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 9, which seeks the convening of the Congress into a constituent assembly and was adopted by the House of Representatives on Jan. 16, held no bearing, according to Mr. Alvarez.

“Siguro nagkamali ’yon. Anyway, resolution lang naman ’yon na magko-convene, ibig sabihin, mag-uumpisa para mapag-usapan na ’yung pagbabago, ’yung proposal (Maybe that was wrong. Anyway, that was simply a resolution to convene, meaning to start the discussion on the changes, the proposal),” Mr. Alvarez said.

The said resolution has been transmitted to the Senate and placed in its order of business as of Monday.

During Monday’s session, Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III referred the resolution to the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, which is chaired by Senator Francis N. Pangilinan.

The Speaker also thumbed down recommendations to amend only the restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution, saying that doing so would only serve the interest of the businessmen.

“Mayroon ngang suggestion, bakit hindi lang economic provisions ’yung baguhin? Again, gusto nila, ’yung sariling interes lang nila ’yung (masunod), interes ng negosyante. Eh paano naman ’yung interes ng taumbayan? Eh bakit hindi nila bigyan ng opportunity ’yung mga local governments to chart their own destinies? Mag-create man lang sila ng opportunity din sa kanilang lugar,” Mr. Alvarez said.

(There is even a suggestion, why not amend just the economic provisions. Again, what they want is that only their own interest will be followed, the interest of the businessmen. What about the interest of the citizenry? Why not give the local governments the opportunity to chart their own destinies? At least create an opportunity for their own place.)

On Sunday, Jan. 21, business leaders Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) issued a joint statement urging Congress to prioritize amending the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Likewise, Southern Leyte Representative Roger G. Mercado, chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said it would be “unwise” to focus on economic provisions.

“[T]he suggestion that this attempt at [C]harter change (Cha-cha) be limited to the economic provisions is unwise, partly because, as the business sector knows, governance issues are also at the core of the medium-term and long-term development goals. To neglect governance is to just partly solve decades-old problems,” Mr. Mercado noted. — with Camille A. Aguinaldo