Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is willing to give Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the benefit of the doubt on her directive for separate voting in a proposed constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the Constitution for a shift to federalism.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Pimentel described as a “welcome development” Arroyo’s directive to modify the House of Representatives’ constituent assembly resolution to categorically state that the two houses of Congress would vote separately.
That’s one issue resolved in the constitutional amendment controversies, though there are still a lot of substantial issues that remain contentious, he said.
Pimentel also said he was willing to believe Arroyo on the matter.
“You should trust your fellow worker in government. Let us not always think that there is always a hidden agenda,” he said.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, chair of the House constitutional amendments committee, said during the weekend that Arroyo had ordered a change in House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 for convening a constituent assembly.
Veloso said Arroyo wanted the new resolution to explicitly state that the House and the Senate would vote separately on proposed amendments to the Constitution.
After wresting the speakership from Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez last week, Arroyo said separate voting was the way to move forward in the proposed amendment of the Constitution.
Alvarez had been insisting on joint voting in a constituent assembly and for the House to go it alone if the senators were unwilling to sit with the congressmen for the enterprise.
The senators have rejected joint voting, as they would be overwhelmed by the more numerous congressmen.
The Senate also decided to go slow on amending the Constitution, choosing to let the committee on constitutional amendments continue hearing proposals for the amendment while opposing any attempt to postpone next year’s midterm elections.
Pimentel said last week that only four senators favored a shift to federalism.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the House needed a genuine opposition in the minority amid continued efforts to amend the Constitution.
“Only a credible opposition will raise critical questions and block self-serving moves . . . to hurry the approval of the revision of the 1987 Constitution in two months, just so it won’t get in the way of the filing of the certificates of candidacy in October this year,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Several congressmen are disputing the minority leadership, and Pangilinan’s colleagues in the Liberal Party (LP) are among the contenders for the post.
The LP members in the House insist that they should be recognized as the minority since they did not vote for Arroyo as Speaker.
But Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who was the minority leader under Alvarez, said his post was never vacated even if he voted for Arroyo in the speakership row.
Pangilinan said any effort to amend the Constitution must not be rushed, especially amid the public’s reluctance to accept the proposed change to federalism, as shown by a series of opinion polls published in recent weeks.
He said both chambers of Congress must continue public hearings on proposed constitutional amendments.
“The more voices are heard, the more assurance that the final output on the issue is from the people, not politicians who want to remain in power forever,” he added.