By Ben R. Rosario
The Senate has only two weeks to decide on whether or not to join the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) proposed by the House of Representatives to amend or revise the Constitution.
The House is set on calling for a Constituent Assembly, where proposed constitutional provisions will be approved by a three-fourth vote of the members, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said.
Speaking at a press conference, Mercado said the House is standing firm on its position for joint voting of all members of the Constituent Assembly on all charter proposals. “We don’t what a tyranny of the minority. In a democratic system, the rule of the majority always prevail,” he said.
Senators want separate voting by each chamber of Congress, which is provided inother provisions of the Constitution, as in the enactment of laws, in a declaration of war, and in impeachment proceedings. The constitutional provision on Constitutional Assembly does not specify whether the voting should be joint or separate.
Representative Mercado said that he expects the holding of a caucus among all House members to act on the proposal to convene a Constituent Assembly with or without Senate participation.
He said the House approved House Concurrent Resolution No. 09 authorizing the convening of a Constituent Assembly. It is now awaiting Senate’s adoption of its version of the resolution.
Asked what the House would do should the two-week timeline passes withouta Senate action, Mercado said the House should proceed with amending the Charter without the senators.He said he will make such proposal in a caucus that the House leadership is expected to call as soon as it became apparent that the Senate will not cooperate in passing a Constituent Assembly resolution.
Should a majority of the House members prefer to await Senate action, he said, his committee will continue to make preparations for Charter revision.
He said he expects leaders of both the House and the Senate to meet soon to thresh out differences in the Charter change controversy.
Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he was merely joking when he threatened provinces with zero budget if they reject the administration’s proposal for a shift to a federal system of government.
News media reported that in his speech in Pototan, Iloilo, last week, Alvarez had warned local government units that they will be denied budgetary support from government if they do not supportthe Duterte administration’s bid to set up a federal government.
He pointed out that the supposed threats were “empty words” because budgetary issues are not for congressmen to decide alone. He said senators have also a say in budget appropriation.
However, Alvarez said, it’s a different matter with respect to the members of the House of Representatives. The leadership can deny funds to lawmakers who oppose Charter change for federalism, he said.
The House leader said this was done in past Congresses where opposition lawmakers were provided funding in the budget but the administration withheld the release of their funds.