House lawmakers debate proposed charter amendments in plenary

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2021 07:50 PM

MANILA — Deliberations on proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution went underway at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Tuesday with questions on the mode of pursuing amendments coming from both members of the lower chamber’s majority and minority— for very different reasons.

While House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Cavite 7th District Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla and House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate both had misgivings, Remulla made the case for the chamber to proceed without the Senate, as the 24 votes of the upper chamber was deemed irrelevant since the House has 300 members.

The House leadership under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco had repeatedly said that the Senate and the House would vote separately on revising the Constitution. 

Zarate, meanwhile, said it appeared that the House would be pursuing charter change without the Senate.

Questions on the modality of amending the Charter came from both the minority and the majority—even if Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 was authored by Velasco. Usually, House leaders fall in line behind measures personally authored by the House Speaker. 

The House leadership is pursuing the proposed amendments by having the measure go through the legislative mill like a regular law, except that final approval would have to be made by three-fourths of all members of Congress as required by the 1987 Charter.

Remulla, however, pointed out that this modality seemed to give senators veto power over the House, noting that the Senate does not seem to be interested in charter change.

“Kasi ang nangyayari ho ngayon, parang di yata pinag-uusapan itong pagbabago ng Saligang Batas sa Senado… 'Pag di nila gawin ito ay parang nag-aksaya tayo ng laway at papel at oras sa ating trabaho rito sa mas malaking kapulungan ng Kongreso ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” he said. 

(What is happening now is the Senate is not talking about proposed changes of the Charter. If they do not do this then we are wasting time and effort here at the bigger chamber.) 

RELATED VIDEO: 

Watch more in iWantTFC

“Ang sinasabi ko rito, sa ating karanasan, may veto power ata talaga ang Senado sa atin. 'Pag ayaw ng Senado, wala nang magagawa ang taong bayan… wala na tayong bilang. Ang Senado lang ang masusunod,” he added. 

(Based on our experience, the Senate really has veto power. If they do not want this, the public cannot really do anything. We do not matter because it is the Senate that already decided.) 

The lawmaker suggested that the House pursue charter change through constitutional convention instead. 

The convention is made up of elected delegates and can propose both amendments and revisions. Congress, by a vote of two-thirds, can call for an election of its members.

Taking the questions for the majority was House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin.

Garbin insisted there would be no need for both the House and Senate to convene as a constituent assembly first before pursuing amendments.

After sponsoring Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which proposed to amend certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution last week, Garbin was finally subjected to interpellations and debates Tuesday. Most of the arguments made during the 1st day of plenary deliberations were already raised during the committee deliberations.