House, Senate leaders meet to break Cha-Cha impasse

MANILA, Philippines – After a long and very public debate between the two chambers of Congress, leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate met Wednesday evening, January 24, to discuss Charter Change. 

House and Senate members have been in disagreement over the mode in which the 1987 Constitution can be amended. Congress may convene as a Constituent Assembly in order to propose amendments.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insists they should vote jointly and has even asserted that the House can go on proposing amendments to the Constitution even without the Senate's participation.

Senators, meanwhile, have reached a consensus to reject proposals to vote jointly. 

Alvarez, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas met Wednesday evening and agreed to focus first on proposals to amend the Constitution itself. 

"Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue the review of the 1987 Constitution by coming up with specific models and proposals in the form of actual constitutional provisions which hopefully could muster the required number of votes for these to be presented to the people in a plebiscite," Fariñas told reporters Wednesday evening. 

"Once we agree on [the proposed government structure and other Constitutional provisions], we will then discuss the manner of doing it," he added. 

Charter Change is among the 17th Congress' top priorities this year. The goal is to amend or revise the Constitution in order to shift to a federal form of government. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has been pushing for federalism since his days as Davao City Mayor. –