MANILA – The House of Representatives is moving on and will no longer wait for the Senate’s concurrence on charter change. Asked if the House is already in the process of amending the Constitution, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Monday, “Correct.”
“Hindi na kami mag-aantay, tuloy-tuloy na ang public hearing namin. . . .Nag-umpisa na kami, gagawa kami ng [We will no longer wait for them, our public hearings are proceeding. We’ve started the process, and will formulate a] proposal to revise the Constitution,” he said, adding that public consultations have begun in several provinces on charter change.
When the draft constitution is finished, he said the House would convene and get the three-fourths vote of all the members of Congress.
With 292 House members and 23 senators, the three fourths vote needed is 237.
The draft constitution would then be submitted to the people’s approval through a plebiscite.
“Remember, it’s just a proposal. Who approves it? Is it the President? No, it’s the people,” Alvarez said in a news conference.
He said the provision of the Constitution in Article XVII was clear. It said that any amendment to, or revision of, the constitution may be proposed by:
(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
(2) A constitutional convention.
Under Section 2, it was stated that “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters therein. No amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.”
“Malinaw ang Constitution. Who may propose amendments? Congress by three-fourths vote of all its members. . . .Hindi tula ito na pwede mong bigyan ng ibang kahulugan [The Constitution is clear. Who may propose amendments? Congress by three fourths of all its members…This is not poetry that you can give a different interpretation to],” he said.
“Tuloy-tuloy na kami d’yan, tapos pupunta kami sa bayan-bayan, probinsya, didinggin namin ang taumbayan, and when we are ready with the proposal, . . .we will submit it to the people in a plebiscite. . . . Wala na tayong pag-uusapang constituent assembly [We will go ahead with that, then we will go town by town, province by province, we will consult the people and when we are ready with the proposal we will submit it to the people in a plebiscite. We will no longer be talking of a constituent assembly],” he said.
Alvarez said the term “constituent assembly” was not even stated in the 1987 Constitution. He made this statement even as he, together with several House members, authored House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 that will transform the Congress into a constituent assembly to propose amendments or revisions to the Constitution.
Several senators have balked at this proposal, saying that in the event of a joint voting, they would be rendered irrelevant, as there are only 23 senators.
Alvarez said the House’s push for charter change would not be hampered by threats of any legal action, including the possibility of some senators going to the Supreme Court.
“Eh, di pumunta sila sa [Then let the senators go to the] Supreme Court,” he said.
The House leader took a swipe at some senators for saying that it was still premature to make a decision about charter change, including the shift to a federal form of government.
“Hindi ko alam kung kelan magma-mature ‘yan. . . . Ito na iyong tamang panahon, dapat issue-oriented tayo, hindi popularity-oriented. . . . Kasi ang nangyayari, papogi lang, motherhood statements, ayaw mag-take ng stand [I don’t know when that will mature. This is the right time. We should be issue-oriented, not popularity-oriented. What’s happening is we’re just playing to the gallery, issuing motherhood statements, refusing to take a stand], . . . so let the people decide,” he said.
Alvarez said federalism was one of the four campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Illegal drugs, it is being addressed; criminality has gone down; corruption, we are also addressing it now. There’s one more that we need to do, that’s federalism. Wala akong ibang hangarin kundi suportahan ang ating pangulo [I have no other desire than to support the President],” he said.
Alvarez said he was still hoping that the draft charter would be approved by Congress by March, so that it could be submitted to a plebiscite during the barangay elections in May this year. If not possible, then the plebiscite could be held simultaneous with the mid-term elections in May 2019.