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Sotto: Garbin ‘overstepped’ power in insisting House panel convened into Con-Ass

The chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments “overstepped” his power when he insisted that his panel has been convened into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

"It is clear to me. It is clear that he is overstepping his power. That is not possible," Sotto said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, January 15, referring to Ako Bicol Represenative Alfredo Garbin Jr.

The Senate leader was reiterating the position taken by senators as well as legal experts. 

Garbin earlier explained that the Constitution does not provide for the convening of the Con-Ass prior to making proposals for amendments to the Constitution. He also said Con-Ass is not mentioned in the rules of the House.

Sotto said, however, that it's just "common sense" that a Con-Ass needs the participation of both houses of Congress.

"Common sense. Your committee must take it up in plenary and the Congress, the House of Representatives, will declare itself as part of a Constituent Assembly. Again, part, because the other half is the house of the Senate," Sotto said.

"Therefore, a committee cannot declare itself as a Constituent Assembly. That is not possible," he added.

In a statement on Saturday, January 16, Senator Panfilo Lacson  also called out Garbin for claiming that his panel’s hearing on proposed constitutional amendments was in line with a Senate resolution that he authored in the 17th Congress.

Garbin had claimed on Friday that Lacson’s Senate Resolution 580,  which the senator introduced in January 2018, allows the House and the Senate to tackle amendments to the Constitution separately, without need for a joint session.

"Under Senate Resolution 580, which I filed in 2018, proposed changes are to undergo the regular lawmaking process. This means proposed amendments to the charter are to be tackled at the committee level first, then approved in the plenary, before both Houses convene into a Constituent Assembly,” Lacson said.

“Nowhere in the resolution does it say na committee pa lang Con-Ass na  (it’s already Con-Ass even at the committee level, ),” he added. – Rappler.com