SC can break 'Cha-cha' vote deadlock, should back separate voting: law dean

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 19 2018 12:01 PM | Updated as of Jul 11 2019 05:20 PM

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MANILA - The dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law believes the Supreme Court can break the deadlock on whether Congress should vote jointly or separately during charter change deliberations.

"It is a justiciable question because it calls for an interpretation of the Constitution. This is the dividing line," Fr. Ranhilio Aquino said in an interview on DZMM.

Asked if Congress should vote jointly or separately, he said: "Separately. Very clear for me."

"Kung voting jointly, kahit hindi mo tawagan ang Senado. The presence of the Senate is useless if you say voting jointly. What is the use of a bicameral legislature kung useless na ang isang chamber?"

The Senate and the House have been feuding on whether the bicameral legislature should vote jointly or separately should it convene as a constituent assembly to change the charter.

Under the 1987 Constitution's Article XVII, "Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or a constitutional convention."

Senators have been pushing for the two legislative chambers to vote separately as the 24-member Senate may be easily out voted by the House with about 292 members.

On Tuesday, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the Supreme Court cannot intervene in the legislative spat as the High Court does not have jurisdiction over political issues.

Aquino said he spoke with some legal experts including retired Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna, one of the writers of the Constitution on why they did not include there the manner of voting.

"I asked them. Ang sagot nila, 'Nung ginawa namin yung Saligang Batas, ang iniisip namin ay unicameral legislature kasi 'yun ang talagang pinagbotohan namin.'"

"Pero nung binalikan namin ang lehislatura, natalo yung proposal for a unicameral legislature by only 1 vote and we had no more time to amend all the other provisions having to do with this," Fr. Aquino explained.

The law dean said any Filipino taxpayer may raise the 'cha-cha' vote stalemate before the Supreme Court as soon as the House proceeds to convene as a constituent assembly without a counterpart measure from the Senate.

"The crucial question is, is there something to review? If, as you say, ang mababang kapulungan ay nagpasa na ng resolution na sila ay magko-convene even without the Senate, there is already something to judicially review and pwede nang dalhin yan sa Supreme Court," he said.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in the House of Representatives adopted a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 charter.