House OKs con-con bill on 2nd reading, day after RBH 6 approval

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2023 09:49 PM

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading House Bill 7352, which operationalizes the constitutional convention tasked to revise the 1987 Constitution, a day after it approved on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses #6 which calls for the convention.

The majority outvoted the minority in a viva voce vote after the interpellations of Representatives Gabriel Bordado, Raoul Manuel, France Castro, Arlene Brosas and Edcel Lagman, who are among the 6 who voted against RBH 6 on Monday.

Prior to the second reading approval, the House majority also amended some provisions of the bill but a copy of the bill with the amendments has not yet been provided to the media.

The approval paves the way for a final vote on 3rd and final reading next week, which means both HB 7352 and RBH 6 will be pending before the Senate. A two-thirds vote of the House and the Senate, voting separately on both measures, is needed for the convention to happen.

Before the approval, tension briefly gripped the plenary deliberations after Lagman raised questions on the authority of the chamber to tackle the bill even before the Senate has acted on Resolution of Both Houses No. 6.

Lagman used the admission of the principal sponsor defending the bill, House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chair Rufus Rodriguez, that RBH 6 is not yet implementable before the Senate acts on it, to ask for the suspension of the deliberations.

Rodriguez explained that the House does not want to send piecemeal legislation.

"Once we have approved the accompanying bill this will both be sent to the Senate. And they will act on this. We are not premature because precisely we are just exercising our power as far as the House is concerned to call for a convention and then the bill to provide for the details of the convention then we send it to them and let them discuss this," Rodriguez said.

Lagman, however, moved to suspend the deliberations.

"I beg to disagree. There is nothing yet to implement because the Senate has not acted on the resolution of Both Houses #6 and it is premature for us to assume that this Resolution of Both Houses #6 will be approved by the Senate and will be implementable. We might be exercising in futility considering that the Senate may reject the resolution and even opt to have a different mode of amending the constitution and we will have the feared stalemate," Lagman said.

Rodriguez objected, forcing a vote on the floor. But Lagman also raised a question on the propriety of dividing the House, alleging that they do not have enough congressmen present to conduct business.

"We cannot divide the House at the moment, there are no warm bodies in the session hall. We are about 40 only in the session hall and there is no way by which we could determine whether those who were present in the Zoom are still present now unless the secretariat can determine individually that they are still present," Lagman said.

House Deputy Majority Leader, Quezon Third District Rep. David Suarez, read the House rules which would address Lagman's concern.

Lagman however pointed out the inability to check if those on virtual conference are really still in attendance.

The presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Isidro Ungab, ruled and insisted that there is a quorum.

Lagman then insisted on a vote.

After a brief suspension, the plenary session rejected Lagman's motion is an ayes and nays vote.

"The nays have it the motion is defeated," Ungab said.

The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 which calls for a constitutional convention that will propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez presided over the vote, which was called upon a motion by House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe.

The House aims to limit its charter rewriting initiative to the “restrictive” economic provisions of the basic law “in the hope that the changes would pave the way for the country to attract more foreign investments.”


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