House, Senate leaders to work on charter change sans timetable

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2018 11:37 PM

Congressional leaders met informally Wednesday night to discuss charter change but failed to reach a time table to finalize their proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

In a message to reporters, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas showed a picture of himself and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez having dinner with their counterparts Senate President Koko Pimentel and Majority Leader Tito Sotto.

Fariñas said they've reached an agreement to first work on the proposed government structure & other Constitutional provisions. 

“Once we agree on such, we will then discuss the manner of doing it," he said.

Pressed for a timetable, Farinas said: "We cannot obviously come up with a timetable without first agreeing on the proposed government structure, other Constitutional provisions, and the manner of proposing such.”

Asked if there was still need for President Rodrigo Duterte to intervene, Farinas said: "Please do not forget that the matter of proposing amendments to or revision of the Constitution is purely a legislative action, which will then be submitted to the people for their approval or rejection.”

A shift to a federal form of government was one of Duterte’s campaign promises in the 2016 national elections. Tensions rose between the House and Senate leaderships after they rebutted each other over the media on whether the two chambers have to pursue charter amendments together or if one chamber can pursue it without the other.

Fariñas, however told media that they did agree to pursue a review of the 1987 Constitution. 

"Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue the review of the 1987 constitution by coming up with specific models and proposals in the form of actual constitutional provisions which hopefully could muster the required number of votes for these to be presented to the people in a plebiscite," he said,

Senators have refused to participate in any constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, which they feel is being rushed by the House. 

The Constitution empowers Congress, by a 3/4 vote of all its members, to propose amendments to the constitution which will be approved by the electorate. 

However, there are clashing interpretations of this provisions because of the bicameral nature of this Congress.