MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House does not need to wait for the Senate to convene as a Constituent Assembly for Charter Change because the Constitution simply doesn’t require it.
“Ano bang assembly? Asan ba nakalagay ang assembly na yan sa Constitution? Nag-umpisa na nga kami eh (What assembly? Where is it in the Constitution? We are already starting),” Alvarez told reporters during a press conference on Monday, January 22. (READ: Constitution 'not a poem' you can put meaning into – Alvarez)
Alvarez was asked repeatedly when the House would convene as a Constituent Assembly, given his insistence that there’s no need to wait for the Senate to act on a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) Number 9, which calls on the 17th Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly to propose amendments or revisions to the Constitution.
Alvarez said repeatedly that the House was already working on amendments to the Constitution. “Wala na eh. Saan nakalagay sa Constitution na kailangan magcoconvene (No need. Where does it say in the Constitution that we need to convene)?” said Alvarez.
He was finally asked: “Can we say, that as of now, the House of Representatives is in the process of amending the Constitution?”
Alvarez beamed and told reporters: “Correct!”
This is, therefore, how Alvarez interprets the Article: With a three-fourths vote, Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution.
Three-fourths would be determined using the combined count of both the House and Senate. Alvarez had earlier said there’s no need to wait for the Senate to begin finalizing proposed amendments to the Constitution.
An aide then approached the House Speaker, bringing a copy of the 1987 Constitution. He turned to Article XVII when reporters pressed for him to name which mode they were choosing to amend the Charter.
Sections 1 and 2 of Article XVII reads:
SECTION 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:
(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
(2) A constitutional convention.
SECTION 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.
The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.
When asked which mode they were taking, Alvarez answered: “Number 1.”
“Sinabi ko na na walang Con-Ass eh, bakit niyo pinipilit na may Con-Ass (I already said there’s no Con-Ass. Why are you still insisting that there’s Con-Ass)?” said Alvarez.
The Constitution itself does not name “Constituent Assembly” as a way of amending the Constitution. It is the term commonly used to refer to Congress convening to specifically amend the Charter.
There are two other modes: Constitutional Convention, composed of members specifically elected to propose amendments to the Constitution and a direct proposal from the people.
Asked about the point of HCR 9, Alvarez said it might have been a "mistake."
Proposed amendments can only take effect if they are approved through a plebiscite. Alvarez is eyeing May 2018 for the referendum but is open to moving it to a year later.
The House Speaker’s interpretation of the Section varies vastly from his colleagues in the Senate. Senators had earlier agreed unanimously that voting must be done separately.
Alvarez said they are free to run to the Supreme Court over these differences. – Rappler.com