Solon offers deal: Stop protests, we'll suspend Con-ass

by Carmela Fonbuena,

Posted at Jun 11 2009 10:35 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2009 07:01 AM

MANILA - Following nationwide protests against new moves to amend the charter, Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino, a member of the ruling Lakas-CMD-Kampi, on Thursday offered critics a conditional truce.

“If everybody will stop and suspend [protest rallies against Charter change], we, the pro- Cha-cha, will suspend our moves to convene the constituent assembly (Con-ass),” Antonino said in a press conference on Thursday.

Antonino is a key mover in the passage of House Resolution 1109 (HR 1109) convening Congress into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution without the participation of the Senate.

However, he said the offer of a truce is his "personal initiative," and not a party decision of the ruling Lakas-CMD-Kampi. 

The truce is also conditional on critics’ support for a move to compel the Supreme Court to rule on the validity of joint voting by the constituent assembly to amend the charter.

According to HR 1109, joint voting is the proper way for the constituent assembly to approve charter amendments.

With joint voting, the 265-member House of Representatives can do without the 24-member Senate in meeting the three-fourths vote (216 votes) needed to approve an amendment.

The Senate has passed a resolution declaring the House move unconstitutional.

Unite to get a SC ruling

“I call on all sectors, whether pro- or anti-cha-cha, whether from business, farmers, or religious [groups] to join me and others in signing a joint resolution pleading the Supreme Court to clarify, with finality, the procedure and manner of voting of the constituent assembly so as to avert the ongoing divided controversy over this issue,” he said.

Antonino said he wants to sit down with critics of Charter change to draft a “joint resolution” which can be sent to the Supreme Court (SC) “so that they can be made aware that all those interested regarding the issue would want the Court to intervene."

He said it is not going to be a formal motion, but more like a signature campaign.

“I hope we can all join together and display unity insofar as asking the SC to please intervene so we can already have a clear guidance on how to go via the constituent assembly route,” he added.  

Antonino said there will only be a “justiciable controversy” when the House actually moves to convene the assembly to propose amendments. But he said Charter change critics should not wait for that.

“I don’t think this is an unfair request. If we all wait for a justiciable controversy, it will be so divisive for us. We may debate this till kingdom come, walang mangyayari.  The ultimate judge of this issue is the Supreme Court. Let the debates be before the SC where it will be of value. We can debate on the streets but nothing will come out of it,” he added.

Moro deal, people's initiative

Antonino cited as example SC’s move last year when it issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of the Moro ancestral domain accord. 

“It was never implemented. There was no justiciable case yet because it was not signed. But the SC intervened because it was a raging controversy and there was public clamor,” he said.

Antonino dismissed critics’ fears that the SC is controlled by President Arroyo since 11 of the 13 justices are her appointees.

Some members of the opposition are delaying moves to question HR 1109 before the Supreme Court for fear that an early ruling--assuming that it would be favorable to the administration allies--would give the administration time to propose and even approve amendments.

But Antonino recalled the 2006 SC decision ruling that prevented the administration congressmen from using the people’s initiative mode to amend the Constitution because of the absence of an implementing law.  

“Why should they question the integrity of the SC now when it previously ruled against the administration,” he said.

The SC then ruled 8 to 7 declaring the House move invalid. --with reports from Chienalee Garcia