House not ‘bullying’ Senate as debates part of democracy – reps
MANILA, Philippines — Two legislators denied that the House of Representatives has been bullying the Senate, pointing out that verbal exchanges – although sometimes intense – are just part of a “functioning democracy.”
According to Deputy Speaker David Suarez. the House is only more vocal and aggressive because the current issues involve matters that are close to their hearts – like amending the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions.
“The House has always been open to discussions with our counterparts in the Senate, especially with what we’ve seen, what we’ve heard, in the last few weeks. But I think it should not be taken or misunderstood,” he said in a press conference Monday.
“I read somewhere that we’re bullying the Senate. No, not at all, we’re not bullying the Senate, I think what the Senate is realizing now is we have a House of Representatives that is more vocal,” he added.
“Because in the past, we were just waiting to see what the Senate would do, we were just waiting, quietly for what kind of development. But right now you see the aggressiveness of the House when it comes to tackling national issues,” he continued, speaking partly in Filipino.
Last Friday, Senator Nancy Binay said her Chinese New Year wish was for members of Congress to stop “parliamentary bullying.”
According to Binay, the behavior of some legislators was shameful for both houses of Congress and should not be a standard on how they should conduct themselves.
“Sad to say, the behavior of some of our colleagues in Congress has fallen too far below the standard which the public expect from members of the legislature. The bullying, the absurd spats, the unnecessary remarks have brought shame on both houses of Congress,” Binay said in an earlier statement.
Sought for a comment on the senator’s remarks, Suarez and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo said that discussions were part of a functioning democracy.
“In any democracy, that should be a welcome development if, I mean to say, to take things lightly. So my Valentines’ wish for Senator Nancy is to let love rule,” Suarez said.
“So if we let love rule, let’s love the Philippines. Let them speed up the passage of RBH 6 so that we in the House can do our work and we can fix the Constitution,” he added, referring to the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6.
For her part, Quimbo said, partly in Filipino: “First of all, Happy Valentine’s, Senator Nancy and all the senators. I think all of us here are peace-loving people. We’d really want that.”
“And as to keeping quiet, it’s clear from what the president said, what we need right now, what the president said is very clear — [to have a] healthy and democratic debate. So we can’t keep quiet because the problem we’re facing is very important,” she added.
The House and the Senate have been at odds recently due to moves to amend the Constitution’s economic provisions.
Last December, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales discussed the possibility of hearing Charter change proposals again to revise restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution.
However, Gonzales said they may entertain Charter change through a people’s initiative (PI) as the Senate had not acted upon RBH No. 6 at the time.
But after the PI gained traction, the Senate accused the House of being behind the campaign – even claiming that the PI intended to abolish the Senate by introducing joint voting of the two chambers of Congress on proposed constitutional amendments.
House leaders, including Romualdez, have denied being behind the PI, repeatedly saying that they did not intend to abolish the Senate. Instead, lawmakers reiterated that they were calling for a constituent assembly through RBH No. 6.
Eventually, the Senate filed its own version of RBH No. 6, which the lawmakers hoped would end the squabble between the two chambers.
However, tensions sparked further when the House adopted on February 5 a resolution defending Romualdez from the Senate’s alleged “intense assaults.”
Lawmakers also questioned why the Senate is now looking to finish discussions on RBH No. 6 by October when Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri already mentioned a March deadline. This led House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe to question senators if they support constitutional amendments amid fears that RBH No. 6 would again meet its death at the Senate.