Senate minority bloc eyes questioning Cha-Cha vote before SC

Camille Elemia

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Senate minority bloc eyes questioning Cha-Cha vote before SC
'We are open to it. Ultimately it will have to be decided by the Supreme Court,' says Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, as he insists Congress should vote separately in a Constituent Assembly

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate minority bloc is keen on filing a case before the Supreme Court to question the manner of voting should there be Charter Change (Cha-Cha) via Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the opposition is “open” to questioning this, as he insisted that the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately, not jointly.

“We are open to it. Ultimately, it will have to be decided by the Supreme Court,” Drilon said on Wednesday, January 10.

Drilon said voting jointly would render the 23-member Senate useless. He pointed out that the Senate’s separate vote is even needed in a legislation as simple as changing the name of a high school.

“Yes, if we vote jointly, we become irrelevant. That is an unfortunate interpretation….If the Senate’s vote is needed to change the name of a high school, I cannot imagine that the framers of the Constitution contemplated of the situation where the Senate’s vote is just equivalent to that of 290 or so congressmen in a joint voting. No senator will agree to this kind of interpretation,” Drilon said.

Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution states any amendment to, or revision, may be proposed by Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members (Con-Ass), or a constitutional convention (Con-Con). The law is so far silent on the manner of voting.

“Where does it say assembly? Convening as one body. It doesn’t say about it. We are a bicameral congress and therefore, we act separately,” Drilon said.

The minority leader also slammed the recent attacks of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against the Senate.

For Drilon, it’s clear that Alvarez is intent on destroying the Senate’s credibility so the public would support the latter’s bid for a joint voting.

“I think it is part of the effort to make the Senate irrelevant, to make the Senate look bad to the people and ultimately, to make it easier to amend the Constitution so that there’ll be a unicameral Congress….Conditioning the minds of the people is part of the plan,” Drilon said.

The House leadership has said that it will prioritize the convention of a Con-Ass this year.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, meanwhile, is set to submit a resolution this week calling for Con-Ass to revise the Constitution and to study the shift to a federal form of government. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.