Joint Con-Ass junked
Senators close ranks, insist on voting separately by Senate, House
SENATORS agreed at an all-party caucus Tuesday night to reject a joint constituent assembly with the House of Representatives to amend the Constitution, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Wednesday.
“We are a failing democracy. We have to be realistic. Congress must change it.” Favors hybrid “Con-Con” and separate voting by Senate and House.
Charter change is a “lethal experiment” and a “leap to hell.”
Supports “Con-Con” but voting “should be done separately.”
At the same caucus, Drilon said, Senator Panfilo Lacson proposed that any senator who joins the House-initiated constituent assembly would be expelled from the Senate.
Lacson confirmed making the proposal.
“I did suggest that yesterday after we all agreed to close ranks as one body. Nobody objected,” he said in a text message.
Drilon said the senators were unanimous in insisting that any amendment to the Constitution should be done with the House and Senate voting separately.
But in its resolution passed Tuesday, the House said the House and Senate would vote jointly on any amendments, a suggestion the 24 senators reject because they would be outnumbered by 292 members of the House.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, a key administration ally, said the two chambers should hold joint hearings, but must vote separately.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday declared Charter change is “dead” in the Senate since it cannot be done in just a matter of 10 weeks.
Speaking at a joint hearing of the Senate committees on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, and electoral reforms and people’s participation in Charter change proposals, Recto said there were too many other matters to handle.
“Clearly, we cannot do it in 10 session weeks, not to mention the possibility of the Senate being an impeachment court once again, not to mention we have to pass other laws as senators, as members of Congress,” Recto said.
“Based on what I’ve heard today, Cha-cha is dead in the Senate,” he said.
Drilon took potshots at House members for hastily passing the resolution calling for a constituent assembly.
“Last night, the House of Representatives passed a resolution constituting Congress as a Con-Ass. I think the conclusion that it was done in haste is something that is unanimous,” Drilon said.
“That’s why I disagree with the good friend Nene Pimentel here when he said that we should stop [calling it] Con-Ass because the impression is that it’s done by asses. Mr. Pimentel, you might not believe this but that’s how people think of politicians today,” he said.
Drilon also shared the view of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno that the Supreme Court cannot interfere with the process of amending the Constitution, which is a political exercise and a political question beyond its jurisdiction.
This, he said, meant the Supreme Court would not be able to compel the Senate to act on the House resolution calling for a constituent assembly.
Drilon also maintained that both houses should vote separately—a view that all senators support.
“Changing the name of a high school or changing the name of a road would require the concurrence of the Senate as a separate institution. How much more in amending the Constitution and changing the form of government?” Drilon said.
Also on Wednesday, opposition lawmakers decried the rush in the House to pass the resolution calling for a constituent assembly.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said administration allies obviously wanted the Charter change railroaded to suit their political interests.
“The inordinate fast-tracking of the approval by the House of Representatives of the concurrent resolution calling for a constituent assembly to recommend the shift to a federal system by amending the 1987 Constitution confirms the critical view that the supermajority will railroad Charter change,” Lagman said.
Lagman denounced the move of the administration lawmakers to prevent their colleagues from expressing their opposing views on Charter change.