Senate-House row simmers down as Zubiri vows to tackle RBH 6 | Inquirer News

Senate-House row simmers down as Zubiri vows to tackle RBH 6

House committee on constitutional amendments

EASING TENSIONS | Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri promises to start tackling Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, which seeks to amend restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution. The move was welcomed by lawmakers, including members of the House committee on constitutional amendments, shown in photo at a media briefing in Quezon City on Jan. 31 to announce their
unwavering support for Speaker Martin Romualdez. (Photo by GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The escalating tension between the two houses of Congress has simmered down after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday announced that a panel would start next week its deliberations on the proposed resolution limiting the move to tinker with the 1987 Constitution to three restrictive economic provisions.

“Everything is taking its course. We just want to lower the political temperature in our country,” Zubiri told reporters, declining to comment further on the people’s initiative that has caused a rift between the Senate and the House of Representatives.


On Tuesday, the House leadership challenged the Senate to take up Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6 to make sure the divisive initiative would be “dead in the water,” and as part of an effort to break the longstanding impasse over Charter change (Cha-cha).


House Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe said that once the Senate approves the resolution, the House would immediately adopt it.

At a media briefing on Wednesday, the House leadership welcomed Zubiri’s promise to start tackling RBH 6.

Romualdez, who was not at the briefing called by his allies in the House, said in a separate statement that the upcoming Senate hearings on RBH 6 “mark a significant step toward the much-awaited constitutional amendments.”

“I await with great anticipation the outcomes of these Senate deliberations,” he said, adding that Zubiri’s announcement “demonstrates a united legislative front in addressing crucial changes that have the potential to shape the future of our country.”

Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit of the Nationalist People’s Coalition said they hoped that the Senate deliberations would signal “the simmering down” of the impasse between the chambers.

Approval by March

House members said they hoped that the Senate would keep its promise to approve RBH 6 by March, before Congress adjourns for the Holy Week.


“I’m quite concerned because I heard statements from Sen. Koko Pimentel saying the Senate might need more than a year to discuss this,” said Deputy Speaker David Suarez. “For now we will hold the Senate to their promised timetable of March.”

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers added that they were now letting the Senate take the lead “because if the proposed economic amendments come from them, then they can rest assured that there would be no political amendments,” such as extending term limits or changing the form of government, to be taken up.

As earlier agreed upon by the senators, Zubiri said the hearings on RBH 6 would be held by a subcommittee headed by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara.

Zubiri, Angara and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda jointly filed the resolution to end the stalemate between the Senate and the House over Cha-cha.

Senate obstruction

According to the Senate leader, they would invite retired Supreme Court justices and other legal luminaries, including those supporting Cha-cha, to the hearings.

Also on Wednesday, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez recalled the Senate’s “obstructionist efforts” against Cha-cha dating back to the eighth Congress.

“Our records show that they have consistently been obstructionist when it came to Charter reform in the past three decades—for a total of 12 Congresses or for 34 to 35 years—from the 8th Congress to the present 19th Congress,” he said in a statement.

Rodriguez said “majority of congressmen” supported the people’s initiative “out of frustration over the Senate’s obstructionism.”

Based on committee data, Rodriguez said the House had filed a total of 358 Cha-cha measures from the 8th to the current 19th Congress.

Of these, 83 proposed amendments via a constituent assembly (Con-ass), 105 through a constitutional convention (Con-con), and 98 by way of Congress holding separate sessions, he said.

In the 8th Congress, the House passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 10 calling on the two chambers to convene as a Con-ass.

But in the past 35 years, the Senate responded to House-led Charter reform initiatives “only twice: during the 12th and 14th Congresses,” Rodriguez noted.

During the 12th Congress, then under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a Senate committee chaired by the late Sen. Edgardo Angara came up with a report recommending the Con-con mode, but the Senate failed to approve it.

Under the 14th Congress, still under Arroyo, the Senate adopted Resolution No. 811 “expressing the sense of the Senate that any attempt by the House of Representatives to unilaterally propose amendments to, or revision of, the Constitution without the approval by three-fourths of the Senate voting separate is unconstitutional.”

But “we have not proposed Charter changes on our own, or ‘unilaterally,’ to use the language of the Senate resolution,” Rodriguez said. “That is why we have been sending our proposals to them, as required under our bicameral system.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the House leadership announced plans to file a resolution seeking to “uphold” the honor of their chamber “in the face of intense assault [from] the Senate.”

Dalipe said the decision followed an all-member caucus a day after the Senate launched an investigation into the alleged anomalies surrounding the ongoing people’s initiative.

“Because of recent developments from the Senate, a lot of House members would like to express and get the sentiment of other House members, and there was a proposal to come up with a House resolution [that] will be filed on Monday,” he said.

Probe continues

Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, said the panel would continue its investigation into the alleged anomalies in securing signatures for the initiative.

She turned down calls from Romualdez’s allies for a ceasefire, noting that the signature drive allegedly being led by the House leadership was still ongoing.

The senator said they would resume the inquiry, in a hearing to be held in Davao City, on Friday to listen to witnesses allegedly bribed to sign the Cha-cha petition.

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“It’s unclear if the people’s initiative is already dead. So the investigation will continue,” Marcos said at a media briefing.

TAGS: charter change, constitutional amendments, Juan Miguel Zubiri

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