Senator files resolution on constitutional assembly

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Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson — Cesar Tomambo/SENATE PRIB

SENATOR PANFILO M. Lacson on Monday, Jan. 15, filed a resolution calling on the Senate to convene itself into a constituent assembly to propose amendments and revisions in the 1987 Constitution.

Senate Resolution 580 proposes that the Senate “constitute itself into a Constituent Assembly to propose amendments to or revision of the Constitution and upon approval by three-fourths (3/4) vote of all its members, approve the said amendments to or revision of the Constitution.”

Yet members of the House of Representatives for their part insisted on joint voting by the two chambers of Congress in amending the Constitution.

According to Article 17, Section 1 of the Constitution on Amendments or Revisions, “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.”

In Section 3 under the same Article, “The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention,” the Constitution reads.

Senators, however, have insisted on voting separately on this matter, with an opposition member of the Senate noting that its inaction on this priority agenda may stop charter change on its tracks.

Justifying his proposition, Mr. Lacson cited in the resolution the opinion of constitutional experts Father Joaquin Bernas and retired Justice Adolfo Azcuna who both said that Congress is not required to convene jointly to discuss charter change.

“The two houses of Congress are not required, as they were under the 1935 Constitution, to be in…joint session,” Mr. Bernas was quoted as saying.

“There is no general provision which says that Congress…must meet in joint session. There is none. When it comes to amendment(s), it doesn’t say you have to meet in joint session,” Mr. Azcuna, who was also a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the present Constitution, told the senators for his part.

Majority Floor Leader Vicente C. Sotto III and Senators Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Gregorio B. Honasan, and Grace Poe-Llamanzares have manifested that they be co-authors of the resolution filed by Mr. Lacson.

Several senators also took the position that both chambers must vote separately.

Ms. Poe said the House is free to file their own resolution regarding the constituent assembly. “They are free to file their own version. We believe that the voting should be separate,” she said in an interview with reporters.

But Southern Leyte Representative Roger G. Mercado, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said in a press briefing also on Monday: “On the part of the House of Representatives, we are limited to the provision (the said Article 17). We cannot make any interpretation other than what is stated in our Constitution.”

He added: “(F)orgive me from saying but I think my counterpart in the Senate, Senator [Francis N.] Pangilinan,…he was just wasting our time and the money of our people. Let us go ahead and convene already the constituent assembly (con-ass) and do our work. Because there are really needed provisions that have to be revisited and reviewed.”

Mr. Sotto when sought for comment said via text: “The Constitution clearly does not state jointly, only in the issue of martial law it is mentioned.”

The Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes is set to tackle the proposed revision on the 1987 Constitution on Wednesday.

Mr. Mercado said his committee is set to meet today, Jan. 16. — Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz and Camille A. Aguinaldo