House Cha-cha proponents mistaken in their interpretation of Constitution, senators insist

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada expressed his disappointment after leaders of the House of Representatives insisted on their stand on the issue of voting on Charter change.

This after Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and Tingog party-list Rep. Jude Acidre said that unlike the Senate’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, the House’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 is way more constitutional and fully complies with the law.

“I respect the opinions and role of my colleagues from the House of Representatives but I believe that they are mistaken in their interpretation of the Constitution,” Estrada said in a statement on Friday, February 23.

“The power to propose amendments to the Constitution was given not to a unicameral body, but to a bicameral body—which is what we have today–composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

“The word ‘Congress’ in this provision refers to the entire legislative branch, not just the House of Representatives,” he stressed.

Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution, clearly states that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention,” Estrada cited.

“It is reasonable to assert that any proposed amendment or revision to the Constitution should be voted on separately by both Houses of Congress,” he pointed out.

This position, he said, is also shared by former Senate presidents Franklin Drilon and Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. Even former justices of the Supreme Court have expressed that the voting process should be conducted separately and not jointly, Estrada insisted. 

“Kung yung ultimo mga local bills, pagpapalit ng pangalan ng mga kalsada ay dumadaan sa Senado para pagbotohan at aprubahan, ano pa kaya itong pag-aamyenda ng Saligang Batas (If local bills, even changing name of the roads go through the Senate to be voted on and approved, what more if we are talking about amendments to the Constitution)?” he pointed out. 

“Ignoring the Senate’s role and voice in the amendment process would violate the principle of bicameralism and the separation of powers. It would also undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the proposed changes, as they would not reflect the will of the entire Filipino people, but only a fraction of their representatives,” the senator warned.

“I hope my colleagues will engage in a constructive and respectful dialogue and respect the Senate’s constitutional mandate and prerogative instead of dismissing them,” Estrada appealed.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also balked at the remarks of House lawmakers insinuating that the Senate’s version, which includes the phrase “each House voting separately,”  does not comply with the law. 

“Hindi siya imbento (It was not invented), it was very clear during the first hearing…that the intention is really bicameral,” said Gatchalian recalling the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendment and Revision of Codes’ first hearing on RBH 6, where constitutional experts have been invited.

“It’s very clear during the first hearing. It may not be there, in words, but the intention is to vote in a bicameral system. That’s why the Senate included that phrase,” he said during an online interview.

“And that was on record, that the (issue on) bicameral (voting) won in the end,” reiterated Gatchalian.

He also reminded that the intention of RBH 6 was first and foremost to amend the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution that House lawmakers who have deemed “restrictive.”

“Number one, the objective is to amend the economic provisions. So that is our objective. Any modality, dapat wag na nating gawing komplikado pa (we shouldn’t make it anymore complicated),” he stressed.

Gatchalian warned that making the process of amending the 1987 Constitution more complicated could hinder amendments to the economic provisions. 

“So pumayag na ang Senado na amendahan ang (So the Senate has agreed to amend the) economic provisions but let’s follow the intention of the framers, which is to vote separately,” he said.

“So kasi kung maga-away tayo, di tayo magkakasundo sa modality, di natin maa-achieve yung ating (Because if we continue to fight, if we don’t agree on the modality, we cannot achieve the) goal of amending the economic provisions (of the Constitution),” he stressed.

Gatchalian also reminded House Charter change proponents that President Marcos himself has announced that the Senate will take the lead in the economic Charter change discussions.

“So yan na yung direksyon ng Pangulo and alam natin na kailangan din natin ang ating Pangulo pagdating sa usapin na ito. Importante na nagkakasundo ang lahat at sinabi niya na Senate ang mangunguna (So that’s the direction of our President and we know we need the President in this kind of discussion. It’s important that everyone agrees, and he has said that the Senate will take the lead),” he pointed out.

“So I don’t think we should complicate matters kasi na settle na nito ng ating Pangulo at sumang-ayon na rin ang Senado sa (because this has been settled by the President, and the Senate has agreed to lead the amendments to the) economic provisions),” the lawmaker emphasized.