Sotto asserts Senate role in amending the Constitution

Published July 23, 2018, 1:09 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate of the Philippines is relevant, maintained Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III gestures after elected as a newly Senate President at Senate Building in Pasay city, May 21,2018.(Czar Dancel)
Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto, in his speech at the opening of the third regular session of 17th Congress Monday morning, chose to deviate from the tradition of mentioning the achievements of past sessions to assert the Upper Chamber’s role in amending the Constitution.

He maintained that the Legislative branch has two chambers as he cited provision of the 1987 Constitution.

“We, in the Senate, comprise one of two essential component Houses of the legislative department, as set forth in Article 6, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution which states: ‘The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of the Senate and a House of Representatives.’ The use of the word ‘shall,’ as any student of law learns early in his studies means that it is compulsory,” Sotto said.

“The Senate is essential in any and all matters pertaining to legislation and whenever Congress is mandated to exercise some functions,” he added.

While he conceded that the 250 congressmen would “obviously” beat the 24 members of Senate, Sotto maintained the procedures in Congress are not merely a numbers game. There would be no need for any Senate counterpart bills, bicameral conference committees, joint resolutions or assemblies “if that lame argument is carried to its absurd conclusion,” Sotto said.

“Sa pagpapalit ng pangalan ng escuela o paaralan sa isang liblib na sulok ng Pilipinas, kailangan ang Senado. Sa pagtatakda ng umpisa at katapusan ng Christmas break ng Kongreso, kailangan ang Senado. Sa pagpapalit ng pangalan ng kalsado, kailangan ang Senado. Sa pagtatalaga ng espesyal na araw sa isang maliit na bayan ng bansa, kailangan ng Senado,” he said.

“Sa maliliit na bagay, kailangan kami. Pero sa pag-iiba ng Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas, hindi kailangan ng Senado? If our consent is needed in small things, more so in bigger things,” he stressed.

Sotto said regarding the Senate as an “unnecessary” body of Congress on the discussion of the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) is unacceptable.

“To say or even insinuate that we are unnecessary and irrelevant is unacceptable,” he said.

Sotto made the statement amid reports that Congress will convene into a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) during President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to tackle the Cha-cha.

Although House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez denied this, senators stood firm that the two chambers should vote separately on the matter.

Sotto, in an interview prior to the resumption of 17th Congress, told reporters that Cha-cha is not a priority in the Senate. Senators are set to meet Tuesday to discuss their respective positions on Cha-cha and shift to federalism.

Sotto also reminded anew his fellow lawmakers not to rush Cha-cha. He even quoted the famous Filipino proverb, “Ang lumalakad nang matulin, kung matinik ay malalim.”

The Senate, before suspending the session Monday morning, adopted the resolution convening the Congress into a joint session with the Lower Chamber for President Duterte’s SONA.

Sotto said there should have no other business for the joint session but to hear Duterte’s address. He said he would adjourn the session on the part of the Senate should the Con-Ass happen during the SONA.