By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate will not stop the House of Representatives from convening as a constituent assembly (con-ass) in its bid to revise the economic and political provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“We cannot prevent them from doing so. To each his own,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a text message on Monday (Dec. 16).
This emerged after House constitutional amendments committee chair and Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez was reported to have said in a television interview that he would suggest to the Lower Chamber to discuss in their plenary his committee’s charter change (cha-cha) proposals in a con-ass.
After the proposed constitutional amendments are approved by three-fourths of its members, the House would then transmit the measure to the Senate, which should also convene a con-ass to tackle cha-cha, according to Rodriguez.
But Sotto, in an interview over DZMM also Monday, said he has yet to study if Congress can make revisions to the 32-year-old Constitution in such a manner.
“‘Pag tinawag mong constituent assembly, ang intindi namin dito, both Houses of Congress. Although dapat voting separately, pero ewan ko kung …merong ilang congressmen na thinking pwede silang mag-constituent assembly na sila na lang muna. Siguro pag-aralan muna natin bago ko sagutin ‘yon kung pwede o hindi,” he said.
(If you call it constituent assembly, as we understand it, it should involve both Houses of Congress. Although we should be voting separately, I don’t know if we can do the suggestion of some congressmen that they convene a con-ass without the Senate. Maybe we should study it first before I comment if that is possible or not.)
Sotto maintained that they will not agree to a joint voting with the House in a con-ass, a position the Upper Chamber has insisted upon since the 17th Congress.
He said cha-cha is also not a priority in the 18th Congress Senate so far, although there might be a chance for its approval in the Senate if the proposed amendments are limited to revising the Constitution’s economic provisions.
“Eco[nomic provisions], yes. Other provisions? I’m not convinced,” he said in his message.
Last week, a resolution was discreetly approved by the House constitutional amendments committee seeking to amend sections of the Constitution to allow Congress to decide on the restriction on the exploration, development, and utilization of the country’s natural resources.
In addition, the panel also proposed to extend the terms of office of local officials, congressmen, and senators, and the election of the president and vice president in tandem.
Rodriguez said the House will start plenary discussions on the cha-cha measure on January.