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Senate keeps distance from Cha-cha push

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 04:30 AM December 14, 2019

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday chided the House committee on constitutional amendments for approving, without the Senate’s knowledge, a still unnumbered “Resolution of Both Houses” amending the 1987 Constitution to extend the term of lawmakers and relax its economic provisions.

The Senate leader said the upper chamber had neither endorsed nor had knowledge of the measure that was approved behind closed doors on Thursday by the House committee chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

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He also said the Senate did not yet have a counterpart measure to the House-led resolution. The Senate constitutional amendments committee is chaired by a minority member, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who is president of the Liberal Party.

“None at all. I’m even wondering why they are calling it Resolution of Both Houses when we are not even aware of such,” Sotto said in a text message to the Inquirer.

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Misleading terms

“I hope they stop using terms that are misleading,” he said. As to the timing and merits of the proposed Charter-change (Cha-cha) legislation, Sotto said he would just wait for it to reach the Senate, should it pass the House plenary.

“Regarding whether we have time for it or not, it’s best that we wait for any transmittal they will provide for us to discuss it,” he said.

He also reminded the Rodriguez panel of the types of resolution that could emanate from the House.

“In fact, as per tradition, there are only three types of resolutions that should be used to call Congress resolutions, simple, concurrent or joint,” Sotto said.“‘Both Houses of Congress’ term is a definition of either joint or concurrent. So, what is that resolution they are filing?” Sotto asked.

Typically, measures requiring amendments or a revision of the Constitution are labeled as a “Resolution of Both Houses,” since it requires an absolute three-fourths vote by the two houses of Congress acting as one body.

3 ways to Cha-cha

The Constitution identifies three ways by which it may be changed or revised: by Congress, by constitutional convention, or by a people’s initiative through a petition by 12 percent of the electorate.

Under a constituent assembly, the Senate and the House, acting as one body, will introduce and approve changes to the Constitution by an absolute three-fourths vote and subject to a national referendum.

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The resolution approved by the Rodriguez panel proposes, among others, to lift certain constitutional restrictions, including foreign ownership of Philippine lands and resources, by inserting a phrase that would allow congressional intervention.

It also extends the terms of local officials and members of Congress to five years.

Rodriguez said he expected the resolution to be endorsed for plenary consideration next week.

Political reforms, too

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the House-led resolution would not prosper without concurrence by the Senate.

“It is at best, half of the story,” he said.“Being bicameral, without the Senate agreeing to amending the Charter via a constituent assembly, no amount of determined efforts by the House members will bring to reality new provisions of the 1987 Constitution, whether economic or political,” Lacson said.

As this developed, the interagency Task Force Constitutional Reform (Core) on Friday urged Congress to expand its draft of proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution.

In a statement, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, Task Force Core executive director, asked the House to consider including revisions on political and electoral reforms, in addition to the relaxing of economic provisions it has so far forwarded. —WITH A REPORT FROM MELVIN GASCON

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TAGS: Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Cha-cha, House committee on constitutional amendments, Senate President Vicente Sotto III
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