Supreme Court can't intervene in Cha-cha vote dispute: ex-chief justice

Kat Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 17 2018 01:00 PM

The Supreme Court cannot decide whether the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote jointly or separately during charter change deliberations, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said Wednesday.

"The Supreme Court still does not have jurisdiction to accommodate and decide questions that are political in character. The issue that we are talking about is a political question," Puno told senators during the first public hearing on charter change.

Puno's statement came after Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon asked hypothetical questions about what will happen if the Senate does not work on a measure that would serve as a counterpart to the House's resolution to convene as a constituent assembly.

"The resolution is lost and you cannot be subject to a writ of mandamus," Puno told Drilon.

The two chambers of the legislative branch have been divided on whether or not they should vote jointly or separately should they convene as a constituent assembly to form a new charter.

Senators said voting jointly with House members may technically dissolve the 24-member Senate as the chamber will easily be outvoted by the House with about 292 members.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the two chambers should hold joint hearings, but must vote separately.

On Tuesday, the House adopted a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution, while the Senate has yet to decide if it will do the same or opt for a constitutional convention instead.

Drilon hinted at the possibility of the Senate snubbing the House resolution to convene as a constituent assembly.

"If the Senate does not act on the resolution of the House, no question can be raised in the Supreme Court because it is a political decision of the Senate," Drilon said.

"If senate pushes or decides on a con-con but house would make con-ass, this issue cannot be brought to Supreme Court because it's an exercise of the legislative branch's discretionary powers," he said.