Lawmakers rejected Wednesday the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments’ declaration that it is already sitting as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate strongly opposed the declaration made by AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. during the resumption of the House panel’s deliberations on Charter change that they are already sitting as Con-Ass.
“That is strange to me because no committee of the Senate or of the House including the Committee on Constitutional Amendments can sit as a Constituent Assembly. Because the Constituent Assembly is composed of members of the House and the Senate in a joint meeting or assembly,” Lagman said during the panel’s first hearing on Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 principally authored by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
“The House by itself cannot meet as a Constituent Assembly,” he pointed out.
During the hearing, Garbin declared that “we are sitting as a Constituent Assembly exercising our constituent power.”
“Once Congress initiates the procedure to propose amendments to the Constitution, it is deemed to have entered into the exercise of its constituent power. There is no need for a prior act of organizing itself as a body exercising constituent power,” he said.
He explained that the three-fourths vote of all members of Congress, voting separately, will only apply on third reading.
Zarate raised eyebrows at Garbin’s pronouncement.
“Amendment via legislation route of House is not the Constituent Assembly contemplated by the1987 Constitution. A House committee cannot just declare motu proprio that is now being constituted as a Constituent Assembly,” he said.
Iloilo Rep. Lorenz Defensor, panel vice chairperson, defended Garbin, saying that there is no formal act needed to open deliberations and act as a Constituent Assembly.
“And once we convene to discuss this HR in amending our Constitution, we are already acting as a Con-Ass exercising our constituent power.”
Isabela Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano disagreed with Garbin and Defensor, saying that “we cannot call our committee hearing right now as Constituent Assembly.”
“When we had proposals in changing to a federal system of government last year, we did not call ourselves as a Constituent Assembly,” he said.
“The term, Constituent Assembly is singular and being that as a fact that Constituent Assembly composes of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, we cannot ourselves right now in this committee as a Constituent Assembly. We can call it a committee hearing where we will propose to be convened as Constituent Assembly,” Albano said.
House Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas said, “The House panel cannot assume the convening of a Con-Ass on its own, without a separate enabling resolution and without the express consent and approval of the Senate.”