Sunday, February 18, 2018
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Lacson: SC can’t force Senate to join House in Con-ass

Senator Panfilo Lacson
EDWIN BACASMAS

Not even the Supreme Court can force the Senate to hold joint sessions with the House of Representatives to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Sunday.

Speaking in a radio interview, Lacson said former Chief Justice Reynato Puno had said as much during last week’s Senate committee hearing on proposals to amend the Constitution for a shift to federalism.

“If we do not act on (the concurrent resolution of the House seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly), the Supreme Court cannot act on this if we listen to the opinion of ex-Chief Justice Puno,” Lacson said.

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Puno had said this was a political question and that the Supreme Court could not intervene, he said.

“This is because that’s between two houses of the legislative branch. So the high court is in no position to intervene and tell the Senate to pass its own concurrent resolution. We cannot be ordered (by the Supreme Court), that’s what Chief Justice Puno said,” Lacson added.

Stalemate

And because the Supreme Court cannot intervene, he said, the Senate and the House are locked in a stalemate on the amendment of the Constitution.

He acknowledged that the matter was as good as dead.

Speaking as a resource person at a hearing called by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes on Wednesday, Puno said the Senate’s rejection of a constituent assembly (Con-ass) with the House could not be questioned before the Supreme Court.

“[T]hat’s a political position that will pose a political question that is beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,” Puno said.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had threatened a House-only Con-ass after the Senate, insisting on separate voting on proposed amendments, rejected the House call to a constituent assembly.

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Alvarez insisted on joint voting, which the senators rejected because they were outnumbered by the representatives.

Puno, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna, also appearing in last week’s Senate hearing, spoke in favor of separate voting, which they said was the intent of the Constitution’s provision for amendment by constituent assembly.

Senate Con-ass

To maintain institutional equality, Lacson filed a resolution calling on the Senate to sit as a constituent assembly and introduce amendments to the the Constitution.

Conflicting Senate-House amendments would be reconciled in conference.

Lacson blamed the House for the deadlock.

He said the congressmen “telegraphed” to the senators that their vote would be drowned in joint voting, making the senators insist on separate voting.

Lacson agreed that Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Alvarez should talk to break the impasse, but warned that the Senate would not budge if the House insisted on joint voting.

He also said he “sympathized” with Pimentel because the Senate chief was after all the head of the ruling party PDP-Laban.

But Pimentel’s “hands are tied,” Lacson said, because the Senate President has already stated that the Senate’s position is for separate voting.

Pimentel earlier planned to file a resolution seeking a Senate-House Con-ass with the two chambers voting separately but backed down after the majority of the senators, during a recent caucus, expressed their preference for a separate constituent assembly and separate voting.

In that caucus, Lacson pushed for the expulsion of senators who would go to the House Con-ass.

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TAGS: Charter change, Con-Ass, constituent assembly, Panfilo Lacson, Pantaleon Alvarez, Ping Lacson, Reynato Puno
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