House pushes ‘Bernas formula’ in Cha cha | Inquirer News

House pushes ‘Bernas formula’ in amending Constitution

Proposals to declare the last week of September as the National Week for the Deaf, and then the month of October as the National Dwarfism Awareness Month, were approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

MANILA, Philippines — Unable to pursue a costly constitutional convention (Con-con), cautioned against undermining the Senate in a constituent assembly (Con-ass), and accused of orchestrating a people’s initiative, the House of Representatives is now looking at a fourth way to amend the 1987 Constitution.

“Right now, we are following the ‘Bernas formula,’ where we would process amendments through the ordinary legislative process,” said House Deputy Majority Leader and Tingog party list Rep. Jude Acidre.


He was referring to a way of amending the constitution as proposed by deceased lawyer and priest Joaquin Bernas, one of the leading members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986. In a 2011 opinion column for the Inquirer, Bernas explained that under this “fourth mode” of Charter change (Cha-cha), both houses of Congress “will stay where they are, and formulate their proposal as they do statutes, but by three-fourths vote of each entire house. Whatever is approved is then sent to the other house for processing.”


The fourth mode is seen as a middle ground between the lower chamber and the Senate, which found themselves last month in an acrimonious debate on the motives behind Cha-cha. “The logical end is for both houses to approve it using the ordinary legislative process,” Acidre said, noting that the process would be as transparent as any other legislation.

The House will be testing the Bernas formula process once it starts meeting next week on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7, a virtual replica of RBH 6 filed by Senate President Miguel Zubiri in January, save for the manner of voting.

While RBH 7 echoes the exact wording of Article 17 of the Constitution (vote of two-thirds of all members of Congress), the Senate’s resolution added a clause allowing senators to vote separately.

Need for Cha-cha raised

Acidre pointed out that the clause does not exist in the 1987 Constitution but conceded that the manner of approval may still be settled in the bicameral conference process.

The Senate has begun public hearings on amendments to specific economic provisions. Moreover, the Senate hearings have also raised questions on whether there is, in fact, an actual need for amendments.

“We don’t need Cha-cha at this time, so we in the Makabayan bloc are against these moves at the House and Senate for Cha-cha in whatever manner,” said Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas. She also stressed that the House should be heeding workers’ clamor for higher wages through legislation.


“This jostling between the Senate and the House is worrisome because we are forgetting our job as lawmakers to pass bills for the development of Filipinos’ lives and not to fight among ourselves,” she added.

At a Thursday press conference at the House, Brosas wondered why lawmakers were insistent on Cha-cha for still unspecified amendments.

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“If we listen to the people, they are telling us what we need to do,” she said, pointing at a pending bill on an increase in minimum wages.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said that she would seek higher wages for public employees, including teachers and nurses, noting that no measures were filed this year for their salary increase.

TAGS: Cha-cha, Constitution, House of Representatives

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