Congress sees CJ as key to Cha-cha

By Christine F. Herrera

Congressional leaders on Sunday again pressed for constitutional amendments after they were rebuffed by President Benigno Aquino III last month.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. used the recent appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as a springboard to revive a bid to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, saying those would be needed to avoid gridlock on legal issues, such as the 40-percent limit on foreign equity.

He also proposed arming the new chief justice with powers to institute reforms in the Judiciary. “The President vowed to make a decision in two weeks after Senate President [Juan Ponce] Enrile and I discussed the Charter change issue with him last month,” Belmonte said.

“We have a new chief justice to replace the one perceived as a stumbling block to reforms and so it is time to go full blast ahead with the constitutional amendments to strengthen the economic provisions that would pave the way for progress,” Belmonte said.

“Now is the time to do it.” The Speaker said the new chief justice augured well for the President’s plan to institute reforms in governance.

Bohol Rep. Erico Aumentado, meanwhile, filed a resolution seeking to amend a constitutional provision that grants only one seat to the bicameral Congress in the Judicial and Bar Council, the body which vets the appointments to the Supreme Court.

Aumentado’s amendment would give formalize the established practice of giving each chamber a representative on the council. The practice was recently challenged before the Supreme Court, but the Senate and the House insisted that the constitutional provision was an oversight by those who drafted the Constitution.

Belmonte said the Charter revisions would hasten reforms in the entire economy, not just in the Judiciary, but that Congress would focus only on the economic provisions of the Constitution to allay fears that the amendments were being pursued for political or partisan purposes.