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MANILA, Philippines – The joint resolution of the House and the Senate proposing economic amendments in the 1987 Constitution is in “suspended animation,” according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel.
Pimentel’s statement comes just a day after the Senate issued a strongly worded manifesto rejecting the House of Representative’s push for charter change.
“The PI (People Initiative) is apparently continuing and reports are ‘congressmen are behind it’ hence our question is: why are congressmen in effect pursuing two modes in amending the constitution. There is bad faith somewhere,” Pimentel told Rappler in a text message on Wednesday, January 24.
According to Pimentel, the Senate wanted to know the reasons behind the signature campaign and probe allegations of bribery.
“We step on the brakes until we find out what is the real agenda of those behind this latest charter change push,” he said.
On Tuesday, January 23, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva claimed “many senators” were no longer interested in charter change due to the supposed anomalous signature campaign.
Villanueva went as far as asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to “invalidate” the signatures it received from different areas in the country. As of Tuesday, the Comelec received signature documents from some 900 out of over 1,600 cities and municipalities across the country.
Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri feared a shoddy signature campaign would compromise the country’s checks and balances.
“With the change, the Senate is left powerless to stop even the most radical proposals: We cannot protect our lands from foreign ownership; We cannot stop the removal of term limits or a no election scenario in 2025, or worse, in 2028,” he said.
Zubiri also slammed the House push to amend the Constitution through a constitutional assembly, a scheme that would effectively dilute the voice of the senators.
“If this PI prospers, further changes to the Constitution can be done with or without the Senate’s approval, or worse, even absent all the senators. Should Congress vote jointly in a constituent assembly, the Senate and its 24 members cannot cast any meaningful vote against the 316 members of the House of Representatives,” Zubiri said.
House members have always been eager to amend the charter. All previous attempts fizzled out as their Senate counterparts were not too keen on amending the Constitution, especially through a constituent assembly. – Rappler.com