Senators told: Don’t act as SC justices

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ADMINISTRATION lawmakers yesterday asked the 23 senators not to act as justices of the Supreme Court (SC) over the issue of Charter change (Cha-cha) while opposition congressmen predicted that amending the Constitution through Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) without the Senate is now heading toward its graveyard.

Reacting to the resolution signed by 23 senators opposing a planned unilateral act by the House of Representatives to propose amendments to the Constitution through three-fourths votes of Congress, Speaker Prospero “Boy” Nograles and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte advised the Senate to seek audience before the SC at proper time.

“I believe that only the Supreme Court (SC) can declare it unconstitutional and not the Senate. But I respect their opinion as they should respect the opinion of the House,” said Nograles.

But Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño said congressmen should not test to the limit the apprehension of the public against Cha-cha, adding that senators are only doing the right thing for the interest of the public.

“That resolution of the Senate was anticipated and it’s being unanimous effectively checks the move in the House to go it alone as Con-Ass,” said Ocampo.

“That will trigger a showdown that the House can’t win, patalo na sila” said Casiño.

Nograles was the principal author of House Resolution (HR) No. 737 signed by 163 lawmakers proposing amendments to some economic provisions of the Constitution, including the provision allowing 100% foreign ownership of land while Villafuerte is yet to file his separate resolution bearing 167 signatures for Con-Ass.

Villafuerte said it is the duty of the SC to decide and not the senators whether or not Congress can meet and vote jointly or separately in proposing amendments to the Constitution through three-fourths votes.

“I don’t think the Senate can declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. The Supreme Court is the one empowered to do so. The senators cannot pre-judge how the Supreme Court will decide on whether we should vote jointly or separately,” Villafuerte said. “They are contesting a resolution which has not even been filed yet. Let them bring it to the Supreme Court and it will be dismissed.”

Even Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson, an independent member of the House of Representatives, said senators committed blunder when it wrongly accused the House through their resolution.

“Supreme Court na ba ngayon ang Senate? Hindi lang biased opinion ‘yun, wrong mistake pa. They have wronged the House and committed a legal mistake by such declaration,” said Joson.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante added: “Congress cannot declare a move by either House unconstitutional, only the Supreme Court can. The senators are becoming more brilliant than the law itself.”

The camp of Villafuerte is looking for a trigger mechanism through three-fourths votes of Congress to force the SC to decide on the matter.

The Senate believed that the attempt of the House of Representatives to ignore the senators in pushing Cha-cha is unconstitutional.