JPE, Pimentel back separate Congress vote on Cha-cha

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2018 04:26 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2018 12:20 AM

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Two of the country's political luminaries on Monday warned the House of Representatives against rushing any proposal to change the charter that may end up violating the Constitution itself.

Former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, who once led the chamber, said the Senate and House of Representatives should vote separately on the issue of charter change. 

Enrile said the Constitution gave equal powers to the House and Senate, enabling them to vote separately on any legislative issue, more so in changing the Constitution.

"Binigay ang kapangyarihan sa Senado at Kamara na magkahiwalay na magdesisyon sa pagpalit ng mga pangalan ng eskwelahan o tulay, pero sa Saligang Batas pwedeng wala yung isa? Itatapon ko na ang aking pinag-aralan sa constitutional law," Enrile said.

"I don't think the Supreme Court will sustain it," he said.

Pimentel agreed with Enrile, saying the Constitution prescribes this.

He said the Senate is vital in any legislative measure and must remain independent.

"Ang Senate kailangan hindi sunod sunuran lamang, hindi lang kung ano gusto ng House o nang Pangulo. Hindi pwede na dahil gusto lang ng Pangulo. Dapat tingnan din ng Senate as a body," he said.

"They (House) have every right to propose, but I think it's best that these things must be studied step by step and see the pitfalls and limitations," Enrile added.

Enrile said the country once tried unicameral legislation, which turned out to be inefficient because it lacks check and balance. 

Both Enrile and Pimentel said a constitutional convention is still the best way to change the constitution.

"That is the most ideal but it is tedious and will take time. Unless the president will say I'll give you so much time, one year, and if you cannot do it I'll find another avenue to do it," Enrile said.

Pimentel, for his part said, in the event a constituent assembly prevails, public participation must be demanded. 

"Public hearings must be conducted and people are given the chance to participate in the hearings conducted," he said.

SLOW DOWN THE CHA-CHA TRAIN

The Duterte administration and allies in Congress have been advocating for a shift to a federal form of government.

"Pwede yan lahat pero dahan dahan. Pag-aralang mabuti sapagkat kapag ginawa at hindi umandar, you have to go back and change constitution again. Otherwise, you'll have bloodshed in this country," Enrile said.

Pimentel added: "I agree. Hindi kailangan immediately na dahil gusto ng Pangulo. Importante, maganda ba ito? Nobody has the monopoly of knowledge. That is what democracy is all about."

Pimentel is a known advocate for federalism but only in terms of economic and political infrastructure.

"Under my proposal there are certain agencies of government which will not be touched, like the Ombudsman and the judicial system," he said.

He said his proposal also includes electing senators by federal states and not nationally like what the current constitution mandates.

"Walang senador sa Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas. Walang senador sa Mindoro, Palawan, Marinduque," he said.

"Many areas of Mindanao walang representation, which fueled the continued armed conflicts as resorted by our Muslim brethren," he added.

Pimentel's proposal also includes electing president and vice president in tandem and not separately as it is today. 

He also said that the Federal States will have the power to create their own investment laws. But Enrile is wary that it may just create further problems. 

"If the national judicial system will intepret the laws, there are jurisdictional matters that have to be threshed out, what is the standard of investment law?" Enrile said.