Pimentel backs joint hearings but separate vote on Cha-cha

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2018 11:08 AM

MANILA - A former Senate president supports the idea of Congress convening jointly to discuss the proposed amendments in the 1987 Constitution.

But former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said both chambers of Congress should vote separately, as the members of the House of Representatives would overwhelm the number of senators.

"The voting of the two houses of Congress should be done separately otherwise the 24 senators, even if they are to act as one, would suffer fates worse than those who were swallowed by the Fukushima tsunami some time ago," he told senators in a hearing on constitutional amendments Wednesday.

Pimentel said the manner of discussions in a joint session should be refined to give enough time for each lawmaker to state their position.

A House resolution proposes Congress should convene and vote jointly in a constituent assembly as they draft a new charter in a bid to shift into a federal form of government.

This proposal was opposed by senators, prompting Senator Panfilo Lacson to file a resolution for Senate to convene into a constituent assembly separate from the House of Representatives.

For the former Senate president, the best way to revise the charter is through a constitutional convention, where delegates who will draft the amendments will be elected by the people.

But he admits a constitutional convention would be expensive for the government compared to a constituent assembly, wherein only members of Congress will decide on the proposed amendments before submitting a draft to a plebiscite.

"The more important thing we should be considering, if the constitution is being revised via a constituent assembly, is for the people to participate in the process -- proactively, actively, and decisively," Pimentel stressed.