Zubiri clarifies: Charter change stand remains, open to discuss bid with House
MANILA, Philippines — To set the record straight, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday that his stance on Charter change (Cha-cha) not being a priority measure holds firm.
However, he promises to maintain an “open mind” while engaging in further deliberations on the proposal with the House of Representatives’ top leaders.
Zubiri made the remark after House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez claimed that the Senate leader committed on Sunday to “keep an open mind on the move” by the lower chamber to push for economic reforms through Cha-cha.
READ: Zubiri to keep ‘open mind’ on Cha-cha, Romualdez says after talking with senator
“I would like to clarify Speaker Romualdez’s statement about my openness to Cha-cha. I told him that I’m open to meeting with the leaders of the House of Representatives on this issue, and having a thorough discussion with the members of the Senate and the House on Charter change,” he told reporters at the Senate.
Asked if the Speaker had misinterpreted him during their dialogue, Zubiri said: “That’s why I want to correct it. My open-mindedness is for us to discuss this issue. We’re not closing our doors for discussion. We’re not closing our doors for that meeting. It does not mean that my position has changed. It only means that we want to discuss further with them how to proceed with [this].”
Zubiri said the leaders of both chambers will soon meet in caucus, where they can hold an open forum to tackle the push for constitutional changes.
He then pointed out that, at the onset, there are clashing views on the Cha-cha mode being pushed by Sen. Robin Padilla and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez–the leading proponents of the bid for constitutional reform at the Senate and House, respectively.
Padilla is a vocal supporter of Cha-cha through the constituent assembly. Meanwhile, Rodriguez seeks to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution via constitutional convention.
READ: Senate, House clash over charter change mode
“Kung may disagreeing provisions, that means wala na, patay na ito (If there are already disagreeing provisions, that means this is useless. It’s dead). We cannot discuss it, because how can we move forward with the issue in the process of doing this if there’s already a difference in the way we want to proceed or the chairpersons want to proceed on this issue?” Zubiri prodded.
He said holding an executive session is their next course of action to avoid “grandstanding” among members of Congress.
“It’s not going to be healthy if both houses are going to be fighting on this particular issue when there’s a lot of work to be done to help our country,” Zubiri said.
This, the Senate President noted, is in line with the earlier call made by Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. “for a ceasefire on the heated discussions on Charter Change.”
READ: ‘Parliamentary courtesy’ urged in charter change word war
Zubiri said the meeting among Senate and House leaders on the bid for constitutional reform would include Padilla and Rodriguez, and may be held once Congress resumes session after its nearing adjournment.
House as resource persons?
The Senate panel on constitutional amendments and code revision had invited its House counterpart as resource persons for its early Monday hearing.
But Zubiri directed the neophyte senator to “postpone” it.
“Traditionally, the Senate does not invite incumbent members of Congress as resource persons, as they are accorded inter-parliamentary courtesy, being members of a co-equal branch of legislation. We usually invite representatives as guests, not resource persons, particularly on discussions of local bills,” Zubiri explained.
Padilla, for his part, pushed through with the panel hearing sans the presence of House members.
The committee had instead heard the views of its other invited resource persons–former Senator Francisco Tatad and PDP-Laban Secretary General Melvin Matibag.
But Padilla still expressed dismay over the move to defer the committee meeting with their House counterparts.
“Malungkot akong hindi natuloy. Kasi gusto ko talaga magbabakbakan. Ito na talaga iyong hinihintay ko eh. Para sa akin, iyong mga ganitong isyu, marinig ng taumbayan,” he said in a separate press conference.
(I’m sad, because it didn’t push through. Because I really wanted to quarrel. That’s what I was most looking forward to. Because, for me, these are issues that the people need to hear about.)
Last week, the House passed a bill seeking to implement the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, which calls for establishing a constitutional convention to amend the Charter.
Meanwhile, the Padilla-led panel on constitutional amendments ended its nationwide public consultations on the bid to reform the constitution.
READ: Senate panel hearing on Cha-cha ends
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