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'House doing Con-ass sans Senate unconstitutional'.

A leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives on Tuesday said the lower chamber convening itself into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) without the Senate does not comply with the mandate of the 1987 Constitution.

Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of the First District of Albay said shadowboxing by each chamber is a constitutional issue that needs to be raised to the Supreme Court.

'The Constitution provides that the Congress, by a vote of three-fourths of all of its members, can propose amendments to the Constitution. Congress meaning the House of Representatives and the Senate,' Lagman, a lawyer, said.

'Any result there [lower chamber as Con-ass] will be void and it has no legal effect because it is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Also, with respect with the Senate [when it convenes itself into Con-ass without the lower house],' he added.

Section 1, Article VII of the Constitution provides that '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.'

'Con-ass composed of Congress's two houses have to meet together, there can be no separate shadowboxing by the House and another by the Senate. They have to meet together, they have to meet in tandem to propose amendments to the Constitution,' Lagman said.

'That's why the braggadocio that the House will meet separately and constitute itself into a Con-ass without the Senate does not comply with the constitutional mandate. In the same manner, the resolution by the Senate that they are going to meet separately to constitute into a Con-ass is also wrong,' he added.

Last Monday Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez said he is serious in pushing for the lower chamber to go it alone if the Senate refuses to participate in convening Congress into a Con-ass to propose Charter changes.

Alvarez reiterated his position that the 1987 Constitution is clear on voting jointly when Congress is convened as a Con-ass.

According to Alvarez, as long as the required three-fourths vote or 237 members of Congress is met-based on the combined number of the Senate and the House-proposed Charter amendments may be considered and adopted even without the participation of the upper chamber.

Senators have earlier argued that voting should be done separately because the greater number of the House would practically drown out the Senate position.

Meanwhile, Alvarez told critics of Charter change that a federal system of government would allow local government units, especially those from poor regions, to flourish using their strategic advantages.

Alvarez said poor regions, such as Bicol and Leyte, will have the opportunity to flourish under a federal setup because of their strategic advantage in natural resources, including geothermal power.

This situation will create job opportunities and allow the regions to manage their own economy and to chart their own destiny, the Speaker said.

Also, Alvarez added he would make federalism an election issue, even as he asked the Filipino people not to vote for lawmakers, particularly the senators, who oppose Charter change for a shift to a federal form of government.

He also urged the public to be issue-oriented, particularly in choosing national officials during elections, instead of succumbing to the usual popularity-oriented strategies of candidates.

Alvarez said his call is timely now that the discussion on the shift to a federal form of government is in the center of people's attention.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jan 23, 2018
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