Congressman wants Senate stripped of legislative powers under federal gov’t

Published January 21, 2018, 4:44 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ellson Quismorio

Leyte 3rd district Rep. Ching Veloso is suggesting the transformation of the Senate into a mere “training ground” for presidential hopefuls under the proposed federal constitution, effectively stripping the Chamber of its legislative powers.

This was floated by Veloso in a DZBB radio interview today even as he claimed that most of his fellow congressmen want the continued existence of the Senate if and when the Philippines gets federalized.

House of Representatives (Michael Varcas / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
House of Representatives (Michael Varcas / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“There are lots of us here in the [House] that really would still favor the continuation of the Senate. Kaya lang dapat hindi na duplicitous yong law-making kasi ang pangit naman (But the law-making shouldn’t be duplicitous anymore because it’s ugly),” said the solon, who is a vice chair of the House committee on Constitutional amendments.

“Ang iniisip namin sa Senado ano…ako personally (What we’re planning for the Senate…me personally)…Legislation will be basic responsibility ng mga (of the) kongresista. We call them federal assemblymen.

“Ang Senado (The Senate), we will make it a point to be the training ground for presidency. So siguro, wala na silang pakialam sa budget, wala na silang pakialam sa law-making (They will have no say in the budget, they will have no say in law-making),” he said.

The Leyte solon said senators under this setup would be confined to “confirmation” duties and “treaty ratification,” among others.

Veloso, also a former Court of Appeals (CA) justice, gave these statements amid a brewing “cold war” between the House and Senate.

Earlier, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he would push for the convening of a “solo” Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) by congressmen in efforts to amend the existing 1987 Constitution for the purpose of switching to a federal system from the current unitary system.

The Constitution actually calls for both Chambers of Congress (House and Senate) to form the Con-Ass, but senators have been cold to it due to disagreements on how the eventual voting should be conducted.

Veloso claimed that the stance of the 23-member Senate all boils down to their “insecurity” with the House, which is over 10 times their membership.

“Selfish daw kaming mga kongresista. Yet mababasa mo, masyado silang insecure kaya ayaw nila na mag vote separately. Kasi pag mag vote separately eh wala na silang say (They say that we congressmen are selfish. But you can read that they’re so insecure that’s why they don’t want to vote separately. Voting separately means they will have no say).”

The 293-strong House is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is a fierce advocate of federalism.

Here’s your candy

Veloso later admitted in the interview that his proposal to make the Senate the training ground for would-be presidents is a mere “accommodation” of the Chamber.

“Para hindi ka na umiyak oh eto na ang candy mo (Here’s your candy so don’t cry anymore),” he said.

The House leader further threw shade at the senators by claiming that their ilk aren’t as distinguished as it used to.

“Iba na daw kasi ang Senate ngayon…Well, hindi ako ang nagsasabi nito ha. Ito lang ang observations ng mga kasamahan. Tingnan mo, sino-sino ba ang mga senador dyan that have the stature of Recto, Tolentino…yong magagaling…Diokno. Salonga.”

(They say that the Senate is not what is used to…Well, I’m not the one saying this. This is the observations of my colleagues. Who among the Senators there have the stature of Recto, Tolentino…the good ones…Diokno. Salonga.)

Veloso further said that compared to the Senate, the House has more members who are able to ask pertinent questions during hearings and are able to understand issues better.

As for the impending solo Con-Ass of the House, Veloso reckoned that the Supreme Court (SC) would side with the congressmen should the move get questioned.

“One hundred percent ako ang magsasabi nyan. Kasi as a magistrate, ang tinitingnan mo lang, number 1, ano ang batas (One hundred percent I will say yes. Because as a magistrate, you only need to look at number 1, what is the law). You do not have to interpret something that is not there,” he said.