House charter change proponent rejects closed-door caucus with Senate
MANILA, Philippines — Describing as discourteous the Senate’s “disinvitation” of House members, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Tuesday rejected the proposal of Senate President Miguel Zubiri for Congress to discuss the charter change (cha-cha) initiative behind closed doors.
Rodriguez, the main proponent in the lower chamber of charter change through a hybrid constitutional convention, also advised Zubiri to trust that members of Congress would follow decorum and to “not mistake passion for showboating.”
“I am against any executive session or secret meeting on this matter. Let us be transparent. We are discussing the fundamental law of the land, not just a proposed piece of legislation. Let us not hide our discussions from the public,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
Earlier, Zubiri suggested that Senate and House members hold a closed-door caucus to discuss charter change to supposedly prevent lawmakers from grandstanding which, Rodriguez said, showed the Senate president’s “fear of the unknown.”
“[Zubiri] should trust his Congress colleagues to follow decorum. He should not mistake passion for showboating,” he added.
Rodriguez, who chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said he was dismayed by the sudden “disinvitation” of House lawmakers to the Senate on Monday.
They were supposed to discuss Resolution of Both Houses 6 (RBH 6) at a hearing to be conducted by the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Laws chaired by Sen. Robinhood Padilla.
While Zubiri had explained that — as part of tradition and interparliamentary courtesy — members of the lower chamber should be invited as guests and not as resource persons, Rodriguez said there had been instances in the past where representatives appeared before the Senate as resource persons.
According to the Cagayan de Oro lawmaker: “I agree that the Senate and the House should observe parliamentary courtesy. However, what is not courteous, even in parliamentary terms, is disinviting a colleague from a coequal body. Instead of dispensing with our presence, they should have proceeded to hear us.”
Not on Senate agenda
“The Senate president, a former majority leader and a veteran of several Congresses, knows the process. If the two chambers have divergent versions of a proposal, they convene a bicameral conference. That is what we do with the annual budget and other laws. There are no conflicts that we cannot resolve,” Rodriguez said.
RBH 6 calls for the formation of a hybrid constitutional convention to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution. Its accompanying and implementing measure, House Bill No. 7352, specifies the election and appointment of the 314-member convention; the qualifications, prohibitions, and remuneration of the delegates; and the holding of a plebiscite to ratify the proposed changes in the Constitution.
While most House members fully support charter change, the majority of senators are against it, with Zubiri saying that it was not on the Senate agenda at the moment.