By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
A senator today warned of a possible “legislative stalemate” if members of the Congress continue to fight over how to go about the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha).
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said pending bills may suffer if the Senate and House of Representatives will not agree on how they will discuss the amendments to the 1987 Constitution, as he asked his colleagues to “tone down” their heated exchange through the media.
“Nakakalungkot na ganun ang usapin, medyo mainit na ang mga pahayag ng mga kaibigan kong kongresista, pati na rin ang ating mga kasamang senador (It’s saddening how the discussions on Cha-cha have resulted in heated statements of our colleagues in the House, and our fellow senators),” Zubiri said told reporters today.
“I hope they’ll remember that we have what we call as interparliamentary courtesy. Kailangan talaga natin i-practice yan. These hurtful words will just incite more anger, at ang mangyayari dito, ang legislative agenda ng House at Senate will suffer. So itigil na ninyo yang mga pagsasalita ng ganyan. Lalo na ang aking mga kapatid sa Lower House because that will just be detrimental to our legislative agenda and moves to amend the Charter,” Zubiri said.
“Ayoko namang sa galit ng mga kasamahan ko, baka yung bills ng mga kongresista, biglang tumagal at inupuan e ayoko namang mangyari yun. At siyempre yung mga pet bills din naming upuan ng ating mga kapatid sa Lower House. Yan ang pinakapangit, we’ll have a legislative stalemate. Who will suffer? The Filipino people,” he added.
Zubiri earlier called for a dialogue between the leadership of the two chambers of Congress to settle the dispute on how the Constitution will be amended to pave the way for Duterte administration’s push for federalism.
Senators have united to reject the House’s proposal for a joint Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) and insisted that they will vote separately on the Charter amendments by a 3/4 vote. The House, on the other hand, said it will pursue voting jointly on Cha-cha with or without the Senate.
In his appeal, Zubiri recalled his experience in Congress under the leadership of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia of the Arroyo administration, where local bills were stalled by talks on Cha-cha, a scenario he does not want repeated.
“Ayaw naman natin mangyari yun. Dito sa Senado, itinutulak talaga naming ang mga local bill, yung mga high school conversion, yung creation ng high schools, conversion of roads, local holidays talagang pina-fast track namin,” he said.
Zubiri again asked his fellow lawmakers not to rush on Charter change which requires comprehensive discussion.
“I reiterate na dapat mag-usap ang leadership ng House of Representatives at Senado…to discuss possible ways to tone down the hurtful words that are being spread by the two sides,” he said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier urged the public not to vote for senators who will not support the government’s shift to federalism. He also threatened to cut the budgets of local government units that will vote against Charter change.
In a television interview this morning, Alvarez dismissed his statements as “empty words” and a “joke.”