Amid calls for the House of Representatives and Senate to vote jointly to effect constitutional change, Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor said the House of Representatives will not in any way “take away or dilute” the power of the Senate to amend the 1987 Constitution.
The vice chairperson of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments made the assurance after Deputy Speaker and SAGIP partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said it is better for the House and Senate to conduct a joint voting to propose amendments to the 34-year old Charter.
“This is a political question for Congress itself to decide whether we vote separately or jointly, but it is clear from the very start that we will vote separately from the Senate and not to take away or dilute the power of the Senate in the amendment process of the Constitution,” Defensor said during the resumption of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments’ deliberations on the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, principally authored by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
AKO Bicol partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chairman of the House Constitutional Amendments, noted Velasco’s measure specifically provides that the both houses of Congress will vote separately.
RBH No. 2 provides that by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, the Senate and the House of Representatives voting separately, could propose amendments to Articles 2 (National Patrimony and Economy), 14 (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports) and 16 (General Provisions) of the 1987 Constitution.
“Gusto man natin na mapabilis ang proseso at magtagumpay (As much as we would like to expedite the process and make it successful), it is not the success of the Congress that is important, but it is the respect of the democratic process and acceptability of the people. Importante makita ng tao na tama ang process (It is important for the people to see that our process is right), we do not want to reduce or restrict the democratic process by taking the separate power of Senate to vote on their own and vote separately,” Defensor said.
Marcoleta said there is no provision in the Constitution stating that the Senate and House will vote separately.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin mo, mas gusto ang joint voting mas madali yun. Eh kung halimbawa nagawa na natin ang kayang gawin dito, tapos na tayo nakuha natin ang three-fourths, pagdating sa kabila ang nakuha lang nila one-fourth ay di wala din tayong nagawa,” he said.
(If you will ask me, I would prefer joint voting because it is easier. For example, we already did what we could do, we are done, we got the three-fourths, then our counterpart only got one-fourth, then it is just a waste of effort.)
“Maybe you should have sounded off your counterpart in the Senate kung talagang makukuha nila ng three-fourths, kahit na voting separately papayag ako, pero sabihin nila sa atin na meron talaga silang three-fourths,” Marcoleta said.
(Maybe you should have sounded off your counterpart in the Senate if they can muster the three-fourths, even though voting separately, I will be in favor of that, but they should first tell us that they have three-fourths.)
He said it is a just waste of effort and time if the Senate will not deliver its expected three-fourths vote.
The House leader insisted that the Constitution does not categorically say that the Lower and Upper Chambers will vote separately.
Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Cavite 7th District Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla noted that the manner of voting by the Senate and House is a “very critical question that has to be decided probably even by the Supreme Court.”
“We are not in the position to say that the framers of the Constitution want this to be taken separately and not jointly,” he said.
He noted that the Senate will never allow the creation of a unicameral legislature because it will abolish them.
“The question is, did the framers of the Constitution envision that we will forever be bicameral? Are we going presidential- parliamentary all the time? Does this not close the door to the fact that we want to change the form of government when the time comes?,” Remulla asked.