From House, a call to scrutinize Senate’s Charter change measure

From House, a call to scrutinize Senate’s Charter change measure

/ 05:32 AM January 18, 2024

From House, a call to scrutinize Senate’s Charter change measure

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, a veteran lawmaker, has cautioned his peers in the House of Representatives to do a thorough review of the Senate’s measure introducing amendments to the Constitution, as it might sow confusion between the two chambers on the mode of voting.

“The crux of this entire brouhaha is the mode of amendment or revision. Section 1 paragraph 1 of Article 17 of the Charter expressly states ‘three-fourths of all members of Congress.’ Where will RBH 6 (Resolution of Both Houses No. 6) fall then?” Barbers said.


The question of whether the Senate and the House should vote jointly or separately on a Charter change (Cha-cha) measure has long been the subject of debate, as a joint voting would result in the 24-member Senate being outnumbered by over 300 House members.


READ: Senate move vindicates House push for Charter change – Zamboanga City rep

Challenge in high court

To avoid this problem, Barbers proposed in a statement that an ongoing people’s initiative be allowed to continue gathering signatures nationwide.

Under the Constitution, there are three ways to introduce constitutional amendments: upon the vote of three-fourths of all members of Congress; via constitutional convention, whose members are elected; and through direct proposals in a petition of at least 12 percent of registered voters.

“This is precisely the problem that the people’s initiative (PI) intends to fix and clarify first,” Barbers said. He cautioned: “Should we go ahead and consider RBH 6 and, granting for the sake of argument that, it passes, the method used by Congress in passing it may be questioned in the Supreme Court and may therefore put to waste all the resources and time spent on it.”

READ: Angara, not Padilla, to preside when Senate tackles Charter change

People’s initiative

“In the meantime, let the people’s initiative continue so we can see and hear the sentiments of our sovereign people,” Barbers said.

House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said the House leadership would closely monitor developments in the Senate pertaining to RBH 6, which proposes amendments to Articles 12, 14, and 16 of the Constitution, allowing Congress to legislate laws removing equity restrictions on certain industries.

“This move aims to address the alleged constitutional infirmity of Republic Act No. 11659, amending the Public Services Act to permit 100-percent foreign ownership in certain public services,” Dalipe pointed out.


“The Speaker (Martin Romualdez) is happy that the Senate has finally recognized the need for constitutional amendments. We’ve tirelessly worked for economic reforms through Charter change but this was consistently opposed by the Senate,” he said, adding: “Now, it can be told that we were right all along.”

But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said his colleagues might have been too hasty and allowed themselves to be “held hostage” aboard the Cha-cha bandwagon.

Dancing to Cha-cha

“I know that the Senate did not want to dance Cha-cha. But when the Cha-cha music started to play and its volume was turned up, the Senate suddenly danced to it,” Pimentel told reporters.

“The idea is actually an old tune. That’s why it is surprising that the Senate’s action was fast-tracked. We should not have [made] a knee-jerk reaction,” he said.

According to the opposition senator, it seemed that some of his colleagues were “held hostage in a situation that forced them to dance Cha-cha.”

He echoed the observation of Sen. Robinhood Padilla that the proposed Charter amendments under RBH 6 were actually contained in a report that the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes made last year.

Padilla, who chairs the committee, said not a single senator had joined him in signing the report, which he presented after holding nationwide consultations with various sectors.

‘Politiko’s initiative’

“The propositions were not attractive to them then. But now, some senators are the ones behind the initiative,” Pimentel noted.

“You will wonder what happened. Are we threatened by the people’s initiative? That must have been the knee-jerk reaction. Let’s be relaxed,” he said.

On the other hand, former Speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez maintained that PI should be called “politiko’s initiative,” saying it was a “self-serving farce” that should be discontinued.

He claimed that the Cha-cha drive he supported during the previous administration was different from what was being currently pushed, explaining in Filipino, “Then it was clear what would be amended. There’s a draft of the Constitution that anyone could see and nothing is being hidden.”

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ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said the issue was not so much the mode of revising the Constitution. “Why push for Cha-cha at all when it will not solve the basic problems of Philippine society, not even if it is limited to the economy.”

TAGS: charter change, constitutional amendments, House of Representatives, Senate

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