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Cha-Cha without Senate 'pathetic, ridiculous' – senators

MANILA, Philippines – At least 3 senators on Tuesday, January 23, slammed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s continued insistence that the lower chamber of Congress can push through with Charter Change even without the Senate.

“For their own sake, they should not allow themselves to look pathetic and worse, ridiculous,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson, a member of the majority.

Alvarez, in a press conference, reiterated in a press conference on January 22, that the House will push through with the process of amending the Constitution even if the Senate has yet to act on House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) Number 9, which calls on Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly for Charter Change.

But during the press conference, Alvarez said the House was already in the process of amending the Charter and would no longer need to wait for the Senate to act on HCR 9. In the first place, Alvarez pointed out, the term “Constituent Assembly” isn’t part of the 1987 Constitution. (READ: Alvarez slams Constitution framers: Why blame us for your mistake?)

But senators and legal experts, including the framers of the Constitution, have pointed out that the House must wait for Senate concurrence to formally begin proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Senators, echoing the opinion of legal luminaries, are insisting on separate voting for the two chambers to reflect the bicameral structure of the legislature.

Lacson pointed out that the Constitution spells out that much, with Article VI explicitly saying that Congress is composed of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Interpreting ‘the Congress’ under Art XVII to refer to one chamber only is at best, self-serving. They pride themselves as lawyers in good standing but it only takes a layman who knows how to read and understand simple words and literature in order to appreciate what is right and wrong,” said Lacson, who filed a resolution calling on the Senate to convene as a Constituent Assembly separate from the House.

House minority leader Franklin Drilon likewise questioned and criticized Alvarez’s reading of the Charter.

“The House of Representatives alone cannot constitute themselves as a constituent assembly and by its own three-fourths vote, cannot amend the Constitution. They cannot do it without the other house which is the Senate,” he said.

Alvarez interprets Article XVII, which deals with amendments or revisions to the Charter, as the House and Senate voting jointly.

For Senator Francis Pangilinan, minority member and Liberal Party president, Alvarez’s pronouncements show a strategy to “force the issue and have the Supreme Court step in and decide in their favor.”

Alvarez has said that people may question their interpretation of the Constitution before the Supreme Court. But former chief justice Reynato Puno earlier opined that the High Court cannot step in since it is a political question.

“The bullying of the House is an abuse of those in power, we should not let it pass. If the Senate allows itself to be bullied, then our democracy and respect for the law will be thrown out the window and anyone can be a victim of the abuses of those in power,” said Pangilinan.

Lacson said that even if the House goes ahead to revise and amend the Charter without the Senate, only a plebiscite would make these amendments final.

“At the end of the day, a plebiscite would necessitate an item in the General Appropriations Act to be appropriated for the Commission on Elections to conduct such plebiscite. Without the Senate, how can such appropriation materialize?” he said. –