Jointly or separately? Drilon wants SolGen’s stand on Congress Cha-cha vote
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday sought Solicitor General Jose Calida’s position on whether the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote jointly or separately on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
This, as both houses of Congress, tackle proposals to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions in the Constitution.
Since the Constitution does not specify whether the two chambers of Congress will vote jointly or separately during the Cha-cha process, Drilon proposed that Calida’s should give his position on the matter since he would be the one to face the Supreme Court should the mode of how the legislature voted on Cha-cha is questioned in court.
“I would like to hear the opinion of the solicitor general because ultimately he will be the one to argue this before the Supreme Court and he has often asserted that he is the tribune of the people,” Drilon, a former justice secretary, said during the hearing of the Senate constitutional amendments committee.
“May I suggest to the [committee] chairman that the solicitor general can be invited to the next hearing if he might want to share his opinion with us,” he added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, chair of the panel, said his committee would be sending an invitation to Calida.
Wednesday’s hearing extensively tackled the mode by which members of Congress are to vote on proposed economic amendments to the Constitution.
Both the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the Senate and the House should vote separately.
“We believe this is the case because the bicameral nature of Congress makes separate voting logical, prudent, and reasonable,” DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya told senators.
“Since Congress is a bicameral body, with separate membership, leadership, and rules, it stands to reason that they should vote separately,” he added.
Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, for his part, said the Senate and the House should “meet in joint session.”
“Indeed, there is much to be gained by having senators and representatives meet and discuss matters together, face to face, as just one body,” Mendoza added.
But he stressed that the two chambers should vote separately so that the 300-member House would not outvote the 24 senators.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the issue on whether Congress should vote jointly or separately has already been resolved following the resource persons’ statements during the hearing.
“Indeed, it is correct that we vote separately. The Constitution mentions voting separately, I think, three or four times. And only once has it mentioned that we vote jointly and that is only in the case of martial law. So I think that issue is resolved, definitely,” Sotto said.
“And hearing from Speaker [Lord Allan] Velasco and the chairman of the constitutional amendments committee, they agree. So that is already a solved issue,” he added.
Even if the House and the Senate convene jointly or separately, Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, warned that there is still no guarantee that it will not be questioned in the Supreme Court.
Atty. Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, told senators that they meant for the House and the Senate to vote separately on the matter, adding that they made a mistake by not making it explicit.
To settle the issue on what the framers of the Constitution had intended, Poe suggested that the 1986 Constitutional Convention’s surviving members craft a document clarifying their intention.
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