MANILA - The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to focus on the "substance" of charter amendments and set aside for the meantime differences over the mode of voting to approve the changes, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said Thursday.
Pimentel said he and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III met with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas late Wednesday to break the impasse on how the two chambers would vote.
The Senate wants a separate vote while the House wants the two chambers to decide jointly. Lawmakers are tackling proposals to shift to a federal form of government, which is being pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
"We agreed to shift the focus that rather than debate on the mode. We will use our energies on coming up with specific proposals, which can possibly gain support from our respective chambers," Pimentel told ANC.
Alvarez denied reports that President Rodrigo Duterte had to act as a referee among his legislative allies to move Congress forward from the charter-change-voting stalemate.
"Hindi po nakikialam ang ating Pangulo diyan. Hindi naman seryoso na nag-aaway (ang mga congressman at senador). Normal lang para naman may fireworks, meron kayong (media) pinagkakatuwaan," Alvarez told House reporters.
(Our President did not meddle. It was not a serious spat between senators and congressmen. It's normal for us to argue so that we'll keep the media entertained.)
Pimentel said the system of government and economic provisions were discussed during the dinner meeting Wednesday with Sotto, Alvarez and Farinas.
"We did not agree on a date... There was no agreement. It was just an exchange of some ideas. Talking about the timetable is also pointless when we don't have substance," he said.
Though no deadlines were set, Alvarez said the Constitution will be overhauled under the Duterte administration.
"There's no other time to do it but now," he said.