‘Clear sign of desperation’ – says Bernas

Today’s column, “Con-ass in July”, of Fr. Joaquin Bernas challenges reflection. In effect, it would appear illusory any involvement from the Supreme Court sans ‘actual controversy involving conflict of rights’. Thus, even if Congress convenes next month, according to Bernas, ‘it will not be easy to get the Supreme Court involved’.

Apparently, the Supreme Court can step into the picture if the constitutionality of the ‘fourth mode’ is challenged. This means that Congress, if it must convene as a Constituent Assembly, must do so, only in a joint session. And this Bernas calls the ‘1109 purists’ upon whom he cannot entrust constitutional revision or his specific reference to this ‘majority of the present crop of House members’.

What can be a little bit disturbing is Bernas’ claim that unless anybody’s right ‘will have been violated’, the Supreme Court will find no cause for it to act. He does not think that there is ‘already a justificiable controversy’ even if the House succeeds ‘in approving a proposed amendment by a vote of three-fourths of all the members’ and even if ‘thereafter pass their approved proposal to the Senate’.

For Bernas, it is only when ‘Senate acts on the proposal by accepting it and joining the House in scheduling it for a plebiscite’ that it becomes ‘ripe for Court action’. In fact, it would be less complicated if Senate simply rejects the House proposal as this would mean 1109’s final demise. In case Senate archives the same, again, Bernas thinks ‘there is no (‘fourth mode’) to bring to the Court’ to as much as ‘compel Senate to act’.

The only reassuring point raised by Bernas is when ‘Congress itself will have solved its own problem’, which means, that it fails to get 220 votes to approve its convening as a Con-Ass or move to amend or revise the Constitution. In any case, he thinks that the ‘Supreme Court will be asked to perform a legitimizing miracle’ once a plebiscite is called.

Relating Con-Ass and the resulting protest movements or rallies against it, Bernas still believes that ‘there is enough honor in the House that can overcome reckless adventurism even at the cost of their share in the pork barrel’. And with the prevailing suspicion that the House just might convene as Con-Ass on the scheduled State of the Nation Address, Bernas calls this ‘the height of insolence, a slap on the face of the Senate and of the people’ – ‘a clear sign of desperation’.

Contemporary scenes somewhat coincide with the case of post-election unrest in Iran with this 1109 post-adoption blues. The street rallies or protest movements now being organized against Con-Ass share stark resemblances with those clashes between demonstrators and black-clad police in truncheons and water cannons in the streets of Tehran. In both cases, there are voting irregularities being challenged.

In like manner, we militate against the manner 1109 was approved and adopted at the House of Representatives that would pave the way for its convening as a Con-Ass come July if not on the occasion of the State of the Nation Address when both memberships of House and Senate would have been present.

It is hoped, there is no misreading Bernas’ column as allowing any room for the diehard adherents and frontliners of 1109 to sort of ‘ram through our throats’ a rather despicable proposal arrived at by sheer tyranny of numbers and a luminous motive that is not meant to redound to the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’. It is also hoped that Con-Ass is not motivated with the overarching pressure from some 27 states of the European Union for the Philippines to open its doors for foreign acquisition of our lands when not remotely, lobby monies might be changing hands in the unseen process.