House sidelines Senate
‘Federal leaves no role for senators’
THE vice chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments said Sunday that under a federal system of government they envision, the Senate would no longer have a role in lawmaking, even as he derided the current crop of senators as being lacking in stature.
“I personally believe, legislation will be the basic responsibility of the congressmen,” said Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, in an interview on radio dzBB. “We call them the federal assemblymen. We will make it a point that the Senate will just be a training ground for [the] presidency,”
Veloso, a retired Court of Appeals justice, also questioned the qualifications of the sitting senators.
“Who among those senators have the stature of of [Claro M.] Recto, of [Arturo] Tolentino, and the ones who were really good, such as [Jose] Diokno, and [Jovito] Salonga?” he asked.
“One can see who among us who have substance during committee hearings,” he added. “Of course, some may see there are several who are asking silly questions, but many of us know how to ask questions. Many of us understand [the issues].”
Under a House-drafted constitution, senators would be left with confirming public officials and ratifying treaties.
Like Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Veloso said the House could go it alone in amending the Constitution if the Senate insists on boycotting its call for a constituent assembly.
“The Constitution does not say the senators must always be present, too, but [it is] always the congressmen,” he said.
He said he is “100 percent confident” that the Supreme Court would render a favorable decision on joint voting.
“As a magistrate, No. 1, what is the law? You don’t have to interpret something that is not there,” he said, noting that the Constitution does not mention separate voting for constitutional amendments.
Under the proposals submitted by one of the panel’s subcommittee, legislative power will like with Parliament or a federal assembly similar to the current House of Representatives.
The Senate would be the legislative body representing the regions.
Veloso is the head of one of the four subcommittees of the House committee on constitutional amendments tasked to scrutinize the proposed amendments of Articles 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 of the Constitution.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who earlier proposed that senators who join the House constituent assembly be expelled, said it was time leaders of both chambers meet to discuss charter change.
He said the two majority and minority leaders of the House and the Senate should be included in the talks.
Lacson again warned that the Senate would object to any move to have both chambers vote jointly.
“We are really a wall when it comes to that issue,” he said.
On Tuesday, the House adopted a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution, with voting being done jointly by both chambers of Congress.
But senators maintained that voting jointly with House members may technically dissolve the 24-member Senate as the chamber will easily be outvoted by the House, which has 292 members.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the two chambers should hold joint hearings, but must vote separately.