NEITHER President Rodrigo Duterte nor Malacañang would play referee to break the deadlock in the Charter Change voting issue.
Presidential communications office (PCO) secretary Martin Andanar said yesterday that Malacañang Palace respects the independence of the two chambers of Congress based on the dictum of separation of powers between the Legislative and the Executive.
The House of Representatives and the Senate remain divided on whether they should vote jointly or separately should Congress convene as a constituent assembly to amend the harter, which is being pursued by allies of President Duterte to pave the way for the shift to federalism.
Andanar said that the Palace is confident in the wisdom of each of the lawmakers to be able to talk among themselves and find the solution to their conflicts in amending the Constitution.
“Alam mo the legislature is an independent branch of government. Napakadami po nila! May mga Congressman, may mga Senador, may mga kaniya-kaniyang wisdom po iyong mga iyan. I believe … at the end of the day, mag-uusap usap din ang mga congressman at mga senador to come up with one solution kung papaano po i-improve iyong ating Saligang Batas para tayo po ay magkaroon ng isang form of government that will be more responsive of the people not only here in NCR but also to the needs of every region,”Andanar said.
Andanar cited the importance of pushing for a shift in the form of government for the sake of changing the system from a highly centralized one in the National Capital Region (NCR) thereby effectively alienating the other regions of the archipelago from much-needed government support.
“So that’s why we want to decentralize the government para po magkaroon ng pagkakataon na patas na pagkakataon na humabol din po iyong mga mahihirap na rehiyon. Humabol po sa pag-asenso ng National Capital Region,” he said.
The House of Representatives want to have a constituent assembly and proceed with federalism even without the senators
In one of his speeches, Duterte said that a shift from unitary to the federal form of government can only be possible through a constitutional convention (Con-Con), and not through a constitutional assembly in Congress.
Senators said voting jointly with House members may essentially dissolve the 24-member Senate as the chamber will easily be outvoted by the House, which has about 292 members.
House leaders said, however, that their chamber may proceed with its plan to convene as a constituent assembly despite a deadlock with the Senate over the manner of voting.
Former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the House of Representatives’ plan to convene as a constituent assembly and go solo without the Senate will be a “big mess.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson for his part stressed that the Philippine Congress is a bicameral system and a chamber could not unilaterally pass any kind of legislation, most especially the amendments in the Constitution.
“Somebody please tell the Speaker and his congressmen followers that under a bicameral system, one chamber cannot unilaterally decide for both Houses,” Lacson said in a tweet.
On the other hand, Alvarez is insisting that Congress, sitting as a constituent assembly (Con-ass), would push through even without the senators to amend the 1987 Constitution in a bid to shift the country’s unitary form of government to federal system.
He said Sec. 1, Art. VII of the Charter, which says that Congress, “by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, may amend or revise the Constitution,” clearly states that both chambers should vote jointly.
He said the House of Representatives alone could meet the three-fourths vote needed to amend the Charter.
Lacson, however, wants to expel any senator who would attend the House-led Con-ass while the rest of the senators warned of a possible boycott of the proceedings if the lower chamber insists on joint voting on the proposed Charter change.
Legal luminaries, including former chief justices Hilario Davide Jr. and Reynato Puno, said the chambers of Congress should vote separately, and not doing so could result in an “anomalous” situation.