House alone as Con-Ass a blatant heresy — Lagman

Published January 17, 2021, 6:03 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman described Sunday (Jan. 17) as “blatant heresy” the act of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments to convene as Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

Rep. Edcel Lagman

“It is a blatant heresy for the House or any of its committees to act as a Constituent Assembly alone without the indispensable participation of the senators,” he said in a statement. 

Lagman was among the House members who strongly opposed the last week’s declaration of House Committee on Constitutional Amendments panel Chair AKO Bicol partylist  Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. that they are already sitting as a Con-Ass to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution during  his panel’s first deliberation on Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, principally authored by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

“Neither the House or the Committee on Constitutional Amendments can constitute itself as a Constituent Assembly in solitude,” Lagman said. 

He explained that a Con-Ass  mandatorily entails the convening of the House and the Senate in joint session to propose amendments to the Constitution.

“When meeting as members of the Constituent Assembly, the Representatives and Senators act not as legislators to enact laws but as constituent members of an assembly to consider proposals to amend or revise the Charter pursuant to Article XVII of the Constitution.”

Garbin earlier said that the Constitution does not provide for the convening of the Con-Ass 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. Once Congress initiates the procedure to propose amendments to the Constitution it is deemed to have entered into the exercise of its constituent powers. There is no need for a prior act of organizing itself as a body exercising constituent powers,” he maintained. 

He explained that a Con-Ass is a body authorized by the Constitution to propose amendments or revision. 

“Congress is already authorized by Article XVII to propose amendments or revision. In other words, the Constitution has made Congress both an ordinary legislative body, through Article VI, and a Constituent Assembly, through Article XVII.” 

Garbin explained that the procedure being taken by his House panel was based on the proposal made by some senators in the 17th Congress which provides that  a joint session is not required and that both houses can propose amendment to the Constitution using the regular lawmaking procedures.

“But, both Senators  (Panfilo) Lacson and (Franklin) Drilon criticized the House panel for the very same formula they espoused.”

Meanwhile, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition urged Congress to focus on “trabaho, ayuda ng gobyerno, gamot-bakuna para sa mga obrero” (TANGGO).

In a statement, the group said TANGGO is what the people need at this time amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Bayanihan 3 as proposed by Rep. Stella Quimbo should be made urgent in their legislative calendar so as to discuss measures to mitigate  the impact of the pandemic on workers’ jobs and on the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises of the economy,” Atty. Sonny Matula, Nagkaisa Chairperson said.

“Devote its remaining time and effort in making sure that the government’s  vaccination program should be appropriately funded and vaccines to be used are safe and effective,” he added.

The workers’ coalition stressed that this is not the time for charter change. 

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said there is no logic nor urgency in the recent proposition to amend the fundamental law to entice foreign direct investment (FDI) via relaxation of land ownership saying other countries like China, Vietnam and Singapore are able to capture the bulk of FDI in Asia in the past decades without giving ownership of land to foreign investors.

The group said the major factors that have kept investors at bay are not the limitations to ownership of land and shares in corporation, but the prohibitive cost of doing business, red tape, corruption, lack of infrastructure and the high cost of electricity. (With a report by Leslie Ann Aquino)