Alvarez: ‘Okay’ to separate voting for House, Senate in a con-ass
Leaders of Congress appear to be leaning toward amending the 1987 Constitution by constituent assembly (con-ass) voting separately.
Senators and House members led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III met on Tuesday morning at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel and discussed con-ass.
In an interview after the meeting, Pimentel said the Senate interpretation of the constitutional provision on con-ass was for the House of Representatives and the Senate to vote separately — not as one body.
“The senators’ interpretation of the constitutional provision of Article 17 on Amendments and Revisions is if Congress is to propose amendments or revisions of the constitution, the voting must be done separately,” Pimentel said.
Alvarez said the House would be willing to adjust to the Senate’s interpretation if only for both chambers of Congress to agree on voting separately.
“Basta magkasundo kami, okay na yun. Whether voting separately or jointly, magkakasundo kami,” Alvarez said.
Asked if he would be willing to adjust to the Senate, Alvarez said: “Wala kaming problema.”
But both leaders of Congress said they have yet to make a final decision on whether or not Congress would vote separately.
“Wala naman kaming decision. Free-flowing lang po ang usapan,” Pimentel said.
“It’s more of parang fellowship lang between two Houses with the end in view of harmonious relationship to serve the people better,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he did not see the issue as a contentious one.
“That’s the least of our concerns,” Alvarez said.
Pimentel denied that there was a gridlock in Congress whether to vote jointly or separately.
“There’s no gridlock, because there was no agenda. This was just to thresh out our earlier agreement that we should meet formally or informally,” Pimentel said.
If there was an agreement, it was for Congress to meet more regularly, Pimentel said.
“Matagal na kaming nag-agree ni Speaker Alvarez whether formally or informally regular kaming nagkikita so we could talk about legislation,” Pimentel said.
Senators Ralph Recto, Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito and Tito Sotto attended the meeting.
Majority Floor Leader Rep. Rudy Fariñas (Ilocos Norte) represented the members of the House.
In a constituent assembly, changes to the Constitution would be done with a three-fourth vote of Congress. However, the Constitution is silent on whether or not the House of Representatives and the Senate vote jointly or separately.
President Rodrigo Duterte is urging his allies in Congress to change the Constitution for a shift from unitary to a federal form of government.
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