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Arroyo to House panel: Stop deliberations on draft federal charter

Mara Cepeda
Arroyo to House panel: Stop deliberations on draft federal charter
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says the House committee on constitutional amendments should focus on convincing the Senate to convene into a Constituent Assembly, which will then discuss the proposed constitution

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered lawmakers in the House committee on constitutional amendments to stop deliberations on the proposed draft federal charter. 

This was Arroyo’s marching orders to constitutional amendments panel chairperson and Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso on Tuesday, August 7.

“No more! That would all be done in the assembly…No, it will waste time! We have to immediately ask them (Con-Com) to help convince the Senate,” Arroyo told Veloso. 

Arroyo, Pampanga 2nd District representative, said discussions on the substance of the federal constitution drafted by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) is the job of the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), where incumbent district representatives and senators convene to amend the 1987 Constitution. 

The Speaker said the constitutional amendments panel should focus instead on asking the Con-Com on how to make senators agree to convening into a Con-Ass. 

 

Why does Arroyo want separate voting in a Con-Ass? On Tuesday morning, Arroyo filed House Resolution (HR) No. 2056 expressing the sentiments of the House on separate voting in a Con-Ass.

Senators strongly oppose joint voting, a scenario previously floated by ousted speaker Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez. Senators have argued that their power would be diminished in joint voting, as there are only 24 of them compared to 291 representatives in the House.

Arroyo said she wants the House and the Senate to vote separately in a Con-Ass to address the longtime “stalemate” on the manner of voting. (READ: LOOK BACK: Past Charter Change attempts and why they failed

In an ambush interview, the Speaker said both the House and the Senate must discuss the substance of the proposed federal charter together. 

“That’s the way an assembly is supposed to work. If they don’t discuss it together, then it’s not an assembly,” said Arroyo. 

She previously denied accusations her election as Speaker is the prelude to her rise as prime minister under a federal Philippines.

How did Veloso carry out Arroyo’s orders? Arroyo spoke to Veloso minutes before his committee met with Con-Com members Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr, Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, Roan Libario, and Edmund Tayao, as well as Con-Com spokesperson Ding Generoso. 

Reporters heard Veloso explaining to Arroyo that the committee members wanted to discuss the possible issues in the Con-Com’s draft federal charter as well as another federal constitution previously drafted by a House sub-panel.  

But the Speaker refused, telling Veloso doing so would only waste time. She also said the House no longer needs to come up with its own federal charter because the Con-Com already drafted one.  

“So we do not come up with our draft! The assembly has to do its own rules, have different committees,” said Arroyo, who then left to attend the House ways and means panel hearing.

Veloso immediately acted on the Speaker’s orders, relaying Arroyo’s message in his opening remarks during the committee meeting. 

“Let me emphasize that we are not here to discuss the substance of the proposed constitution. We will just hear out our resource persons on the point on how we can convince the Senate to join the House of Representatives in convening into a Constituent Assembly,” said Veloso. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.