House opts for ‘Con ass’ to push charter change

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HOR plenary hall
The plenary hall of the House of Representatives. PHIL. STAR FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Amid objections, the House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted a resolution to constitute the Senate and the House of Representatives into a constituent assembly to amend or revise the Constitution.

The adoption of House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 was carried by viva voce on Tuesday’s session. A counterpart resolution from the Senate is needed before it could be sent to Malacañang.

The House committee on constitutional amendments has also started its hearings on various proposals to revise the charter.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 09 said a constituent assembly is the preferred mode of introducing changes to the Constitution because it is the “most expeditious, open and least costly among the options contemplated.”

Alternatively, the Constitution may also be amended through the constitutional convention and people’s initiative.

According to the resolution, “members of Congress represent the diverse sectors of society and when they convene as a constituent assembly, shall have the capacity to introduce sound and timely amendments to the Constitution.”

Among its authors were Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and other administration allies.

The resolution did not state whether the voting, when the Senate and the House are under one constituent assembly, would be conducted jointly or separately.

However, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, the chairperson of the committee on constitutional amendments, said voting should be jointly.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice decried the “railroading” of the resolution’s approval.

“They did not even allow a congressman to finish his interpellation and sinagasaan na ng (he got run over by the) cha cha train,” he said.

Before its approval, there were only two days of plenary debates on the resolution – December 13, 2017 and January 16, 2018.

The seven partylist lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc also protested the approval of the resolution, saying they were not given enough time to scrutinize the measure.

Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said he had yet to finish his interpellation when he was cut by the floor leader.

“Malinaw po na may martial law dito sa (Clearly martial law exists here in) Congress,” he observed wryly.

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said, “Talagang kalokohan na itong Kongresong ito … nilalabag na naman nito ang sariling House rules (This Congress is really turning out to be a nut House, where it’s own rules are being screwed).”