‘Con-ass without House’
A Senate sitting as a constituent assembly (Con-ass) separate from the House of Representatives.
This is the proposal of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson to prevent the Senate from becoming irrelevant should the House insist on a Con-ass with both chambers to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Lacson on Thursday said he would file a resolution next week to convene the Senate into a Con-ass so it could tackle proposals to amend the Charter.
He said it was up to the House to follow the Senate example.
His proposal came as Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III also said on Thursday that his Con-ass proposal was practically the same as Lacson’s.
In a text message, Pimentel said the resolution he would file called for the “Senate to propose amendments to or revision of the Constitution and then vote on it by three-fourths vote.”
Pimentel earlier told reporters that he wanted to file a resolution calling for “the Senate to sit together with the House of Representatives as a constituent assembly for the purpose of revising the 1987 Constitution, specifically to study the adoption of a federal system of government.”
This meant the Senate and the House holding a joint session.
But Pimentel said the Senate and the House should agree on separate voting on the amendments as this was his personal interpretation based on his reading of the Constitution.
Asked to clarify his earlier statement that his resolution was calling for the Senate to sit together with the House as a Con-ass, Pimentel said: “Well, the ‘sit together’ phrase paints a picture in our minds of a physical joint session. That would not be the case.”
He said Congress “means both the House and the Senate should together exercise the power granted them to propose amendments to the Constitution.”
Pimentel said it was better to just wait for the resolution he would be filing.
At Kapihan sa Senado, Lacson said the Senate would become irrelevant if it agreed to vote jointly with the House on proposed amendments to the Constitution because congressmen outnumbered senators.
That was why he said he would file a resolution seeking to constitute the Senate into a Con-ass “and wait for the lower house to do the same if they wish.”
He said any constitutional amendment that senators would agree on and pass through three-fourths vote could then be discussed in conference with the House for reconciliation of conflicting proposals.
“And from there we could vote through the three-fourths vote of the Senate and the three-fourths vote of the House on these proposals before presenting them in a plebiscite,” Lacson said.
He said his resolution was in accordance with the Constitution.
Last week, however, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the Constitution was silent on whether the two chambers, sitting as a Con-ass, should vote jointly or separately in revising the Charter.
The Constitution states that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”
Alvarez, however, said he believed the voting should be jointly done by the two chambers. “If somebody questions it, … the issue will go to the Supreme Court.” —CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP
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