'No need for a constituent assembly'
MANILA - The House of Representatives has already started amending the Constitution without the Senate, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said.
He made the announcement amid criticisms on the House's position that it can propose amendments to the Constitution without the Senate.
Senators have refused to join the House in a constituent assembly.
According to Alvarez, the Constitution only requires 3/4 of Congress to vote on proposed amendments or revisions.
"Wala na tayong pag-uusapang constituent assembly. I-comply lang natin yung 3/4 votes of all members. Basta kami, isu-submit namin 'yan sa taongbayan, pagsalitain natin ang taongbayan. Bakit ayaw natin sila pagsalitain?" he said in a press conference.
For Alvarez, this means there is no need for an assembly. Once the House finalizes a draft and it musters a vote equivalent to 3/4 of the combined number of 292 congressmen and 24 senators, the draft proposals can be sent to the electorate for ratification in a plebiscite.
"Nag-uumpisa na kami kasi gagawa kami ng proposal to the people to revise the Constitution. Basahin nga natin words ng Constitution, proposal lang yan, sino nag-approve, is it the president? No, it's the people. Hindi kasali ang presidente diyan. We are doing our job as mandated by the Constitution na pwede kami magpropose ng amendment or revision to the Constitution," he said.
Alvarez added there is no need for a joint session as long as the required number of votes is met.
"Oo, 'yan na ginagawa natin, pumasa na resolution. Susunod diyan pag kumpleto na ang aming proposal, pa-aprubahan namin 'yan. Magbotohan kami ng 3/4. Kung gusto sumali ng Senado, wala na. Saan nakalagay sa Constitution 'yung kailangang magconvene kami?" he said.
He, likewise, said the absence of senators cannot stop the House from discussing amendments to the Constitution.
"Wala, tuloy tuloy kami. Pagkatapos pupunta kami sa bayan-bayan papaliwanag namin 'yan, didinggin namin ang taongbayan magsalita. 'Pag natapos na kami ready sa proposal, we will submit it for the approval of the people through a plebiscite or referendum," he said.
Alvarez twitted framers of the constitution who claimed this was the best constitution.
"Yan ang problema sa kanila, 'di nila gagawin trabaho nila nang maayos yet magke-claim sila na this is the best constitution in the world. Susmaryosep, hello? Eh kasalanan nila 'yan eh. Itanong mo kay [Hilario] Davide 'yan o kay Christian Monsod, bakit di niyo kinumpleto yan? Rewrite trabaho nila tapos ngayon tayo sisihin nila... Dapat sila sisihin niyan," he said.
Meanwhile, Alvarez said he is willing to abolish the House of Representatives in the new constitution.
"Ganito na lang, 'yung House, i-abolish natin House of Representatives para 'di sabihin na... I-abolish ang House, payag ako, walang problema diyan," he said.
For Alvarez, having a unicameral legislature will be beneficial to the country.
"Unang una siguro, mabilis aksyunan mga bagay-bagay, mabilis kasi napag-iiwanan na tayo ng neighboring countries. Lahat 'yan unicameral. Kaya ako, I'm willing to sacrifice kahit kami na ang i-abolish. Oo, walang problema tutal retired ako sa 2022. It doesn't make any difference. Hindi nga, tawagin nating senators lahat ng district representatives," he said.
Alvarez is pushing for a unicameral legislature in a revised constitution to eliminate the legislative gridlocks attendant to a bicameral legislature like the current Congress.