Leyte Rep. Richard Gomez on Thursday said Speaker Martin Romualdez would support a Senate move to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly, even though the House has called for a constitutional convention with elected delegates.
“When I reported to our Speaker, he said yes,” Gomez said at a PDP-Laban press briefing, when asked if Romualdez would support a constituent assembly instead.
“In the bicam, they will come out with a resolution and the Speaker said that if the Senate will come out with the version that [calls for a constituent assembly], they will go for it.”
He said the Speaker agreed on conditions that the Senate has laid down in pursuing Charter Change.
These were 1) that the amendments would be done through a constituent assembly; 2) that they would tackle economic provisions; and 3) the two chambers would vote separately.
“That is the stand of the House. So we agree on all conditions that the Senate wants with regards to constitutional amendments,” Gomez said.
The House of Representatives earlier passed Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) 6 and House Bill (HB) 7325, which both seek to initiate the process of liberalizing the economic provisions of the 1987 Charter.
RHB 6 calls for a hybrid Constitutional Convention (Con-Con)—comprising elected and appointed delegates—to do a makeover of the Charter’s restrictive economic provisions, while HB 7325 is meant to be the implementing law for RBH 6.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has proposed that a meeting between constitutional reform proponents in the Senate and the House of Representatives be held during the congressional break “to keep the ball rolling” on Charter Change.”
Villafuerte, president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said the ongoing meeting will help lawmakers decide soon enough on whether to go ahead on amending the 36-year-old Constitution before the year is over.
NUP is the biggest power bloc in the House next to the ruling Lakas-CMD led by Romualdez, and all 45 of its members had voted for RHB 6 and HB 7325, which had consolidated four bills, including HB 4926, which was authored by Villafuerte.
Villafuerte suggested that the senators led by Sen. Robinhood Padilla and House members led by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez meet in an open session in the interest of full transparency, and not behind closed doors as preferred by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Padilla heads the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, who earlier invited House members led by Rodriguez, who chairs the House constitutional amendments committee, to attend the March 20 meeting of his panel to discuss Charter Change—but the meeting was called off at the last minute.
Former Senate president Franklin Drilon said the lack of trust is a major hurdle in the push for Charter Change.
“There is no trust in members of Congress. That is the first issue that you have to hurdle – the trust of the people in Congress,” he said.
“There’s a mistrust of politicians. The public feels it’s just a show. However the end is to remove term limits and prolong the term of members of Congress,” he said.
He said there is also mistrust between the two chambers of Congress.
“One of the issues in a (constituent assembly) is, do we vote separately or jointly? Obviously, when you vote jointly, the Senate becomes irrelevant. That is why the Senate has been resisting such a situation because the Senate can become irrelevant,” Drilon said.
But Drilon said he believes the Constitution needs to be amended.
“It is one of the longest constitutions that we have in the world,” he said.
He added that the 1987 Constitution was heavily influenced by the country’s experiences during the Martial Law years. “Hence, all the restrictions on government found their way into the Constitution because of fear that Martial Law can again be imposed,” he said.
“The difficulty of our Constitution today is it really gives our policy makers no leeway,” he added.
He said Charter Change, however, is not the answer to all the country’s problems, noting that other issues such as corruption and red tape can affect the country’s investment climate.