Solon: Keep open mind on Cha-cha

The chairman of the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments renewed Tuesday his appeal to congressmen and senators to keep an open mind on the proposed economic Charter amendments aimed at making the country’s economy attractive and competitive.

Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. , the panel's chairman, made the appeal as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said he saw deliberations on constitutional amendments to the economic provisions lasting until May to give all members of Congress the opportunity to debate on the proposal put forward under Resolution of Both Houses Number 2 which he introduced.

“I support the Speaker's decision to not rush the plenary deliberations on RBH 2 because those of us in the Committee welcome the opportunity to further explain and elaborate on the benefits of these proposed amendments," Garbin said.

"That being said, I encourage the members of the House, including the esteemed members of the Senate, to go over the Committee's discussions on RBH 2, as some of the points they wish to raise may have already been addressed in deliberations," he added.

The House constitutional amendments committee held three hearings on RBH 2 before voting 64-3-3 to approve the measure. Invited to provide inputs on the proposal were the country’s top economists, members of the business sector, representatives of foreign chambers of commerce, legal luminaries, and even former members of the Constitutional Commission that crafted the 1987 Constitution.

Video footage of the committee hearings can be accessed in the HOR's official Facebook Page.

Garbin explained he respected the decision of the Senate to set its own timetable regarding Charter amendments, "as that is what is provided for in the Constitution: the Senate and the House can  convene, discuss, and vote separately on proposals to amend the fundamental law of the land."

The Bicolano lawmaker pointed out that even former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban had argued that the Constitution allows both chambers to conduct their own respective deliberations on proposals to amend the Constitution, as well as vote separately on the matter.

In his column, the retired chief magistrate said that "clearly, the act of separately convening and deliberating on proposed amendments is not expressly prohibited by the Constitution."

Citing Art. XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution, which states that “Any amendment to… this Constitution may be proposed by… Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members,” Panganiban stressed that the Charter "does not say that the two chambers must convene and debate jointly as one body."

According to Panganiban, "in the instances when Congress is required to assemble as one body but vote separately (like to declare the existence of a state of war, to canvass the votes cast for president and vice president, or to confirm the President’s nominee for Vice President when a vacancy occurs in such office), the Constitution, unlike in the amendment provision, says so expressly and in unmistakable language."

"Well-settled is the rule that what is not expressly or impliedly prohibited by the Constitution may be done by Congress provided that such act or omission is within its power," said Panganiban.

He added that separate voting, "though not expressly provided in the same provision, can be clearly implied from the nature of Congress as a bicameral body. If it votes separately during its regular function of legislation, so must it vote separately in its constituent function of amending the Constitution.”

Topics: Charter Change , House of Representatives , Lord Allan Velasco , Alfredo Garbin Jr , Artemio Panganiban
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