Lakas solons endorsed Con-Ass

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — CONGRESSMEN from the ruling Lakas party came out yesterday with a draft resolution that calls for the convening of Congress to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution, practically disregarding a resolution pending at the Senate that maintains the participation of senators in the process is mandated by fundamental law.

There was no mention of Constituent Assembly in the one-page draft resolution that listed 14 key leaders of the House as authors, led by Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and Rep. Constantino Jaraula, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments.

Administration solons who insist the House could amend the Constitution without the participation of the Senate favor Constitutional Assembly over Constitutional Convention as the body that would to undertake constitutional reforms.

Deputy Minority Leader Rolex Suplico immediately described the latest Lakas attempt to press for Charter change as “constitutionally infirm, deceptive and a gigantic fraud,” echoing the view of the Supreme Court on the people’s initiative petition of Sigaw ng Bayan and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines which the High Tribunal dismissed late last month.

Suplico, together with fellow opposition Reps. Agapito Aquino and Ronaldo Zamora, filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, seeking the convening of a Constitutional Convention and setting the date of the election for delegates to the Concon simultaneous with the local elections in May 2007.

The proposal seeks the election of two delegates per congressional district, with the Concon convening at 1 p.m. on the fourth Monday of July 2007, or barely three hours before the President addresses the joint session of the Senate and the House of the 14th Congress.

Majority Leader Prospero Nograles insisted the administration still has adequate time to push Charter change through the present Congress.

Conspicuously missing from the list of authors of the draft resolution was Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., author of House Resolution No. 1285 that contains a draft of the new Constitution, some provisions of which conflict with HR 1230 authored by De Venecia and Jaraula. More congressmen signed the Pichay version that retains the party-list representation and sets the first regular parliamentary election in November 2007.

Nograles said the draft resolution would have to be approved in the next few days so that Congress could convene to introduce constitutional amendments before the Christmas recess on December 22. He said it would set aside both HR 1230 and 1285 as well as the resolution for Con-Ass pending in the Senate. The proposed amendments, he said, would only be taken up once Congress convenes for the specific purpose of amending the Constitution.

The vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of Congress or 194 congressmen could render the
resolution adopted, he said.

Ordinary resolutions simply require viva voce voting with the “aye” votes sounding louder than the “naye” votes to be adopted.

Nograles explained that since the draft resolution pertains to the constitutional duty of Congress, it would not follow the practice and tradition observed in ordinary resolutions where lawmakers exercise their legislative function.

He said the present Constitution specifies that the Senate and the House should vote separately when performing legislative functions. But when it comes to the constitutional function of amending the Constitution, he claimed that the Charter simply said “Congress,” implying joint voting.

The House majority insists that with 194 votes, they could amend the Constitution alone but the opposition and the senators assert that voting for amendments should be done separately.