MANILA, Philippines – Unlike her ousted predecessor Pantaleon Alvarez, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants to work closely with the Senate to pave the way for federalism.
Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez and Nueva Ecija 4th District Representative Magnolia Antonino made the statement in a news briefing they held on Tuesday, July 31, after meeting with the former president who is now Pampanga 2nd District Representative.
“We will be working closely with the Senate and find a common ground to push forward the approval of the federal constitution. We will work hand in hand with them,” said Benitez, relaying what Arroyo told them during their meeting.
“And we invite the Senate to convene into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) so that we can make the first step in moving forward with this issue,” he added.
The House already approved the joint resolution calling on both houses of Congress to convene into a Con-Ass, one of the 3 ways to amend the 1987 Constitution. The joint resolution, however, remains pending at the committee level in the Senate.
Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution states that Congress may propose any amendment or revision to the charter upon a vote of 3/4 of all its members. The Constitution, however, is silent on the manner of voting.
When he was still House speaker, Alvarez previously said the House would push through with a Con-Ass even without the Senate. At the time, senators firmly stood their ground against joint voting on charter change. (READ: Senators to walk out if Con-Ass pushed in joint session)
Should senators still refuse to convene the Con-Ass, Benitez said Arroyo’s allies were willing to sit down with senators to find a compromise.
Antonino said district representatives will adopt the same approach for the other legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte, which Arroyo wants to pass as well.
“We look forward to the House being business as usual. In fact, during our caucus the other day, she expressly stated that she wants no delay in the business of the House. And we will be working with the Seante in order to push the priority legislation,” said Antonino.
Duterte had long championed a shift to federalism, which he argued would speed up development outside Metro Manila.
The Consultative Committee already submitted the draft federal charter to Congress, which may choose to adopt or reject the proposed constitution.