The House of Representatives, currently in the thick of its bid to amend the Constitution, will tread carefully but with vigor the Charter change process by strictly abiding by what the 1987 Constitution provides on the issue.
Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin, chairman of the House Committee Constitutional Amendments, gave this assurance as he slammed critics who questioned the panel’s move to prioritize Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 providing for amendments to the economic provisions of the Charter.
“The opinion of Rep. Lagman that the only proposal acceptable is a specific one is more restrictive than democratic, and reads into the Constitution that which is not therein written,” Garbin stressed, referring to a press statement issued by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman against RBH 02.
Lagman also questioned Garbin’s statement during the House panel’s hearing on Wednesday that it is already sitting as a constituent assembly when they started tackling the proposed amendments.
“Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 proposing amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution provides for a mongrelized process because it effectively authorizes the Congress to make amendments by legislation in violation of the limited amendatory procedure prescribed in Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution,” Lagman said.
Referring to RBH 02’s proposal to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the Charter’s economic provision, Lagman said such is an “infirm or pseudo proposal” because it gives Congress the “real power to amend’ instead of allowing a constituent assembly, constitutional convention or people’s initiative to do it.
In reaction, Garbin pointed out that the current Charter already contains provisions with the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law”.
“In those instances, the authority to provide the details or change the conditions was entrusted to Congress. There is no reason why people cannot choose to do so again in the specific instances enumerated in RBH 02,” Garbin said.
According to Garbin, the Lower House is now exercising its “constituent powers.”
“The Constitution does not provide for the convening of the constituent assembly prior to making proposals for amendments to the Constitution. Neither is there any mention about a constituent assembly in the Rules of the House of Representatives, “ he explained.
The partylist solon added: “Once Congress initiates the procedure to propose amendments to the Constitution it is deemed to have entered into the exercise of its constituent powers.”
Thus, there is no longer a need for a prior act to organize itself as a body in exercising its constituent powers, said Garbin.