House to resume Charter change debate

MANILA — Amid widespread opposition against Charter change (Cha-cha), the House committee on constitutional amendments will resume debates Tuesday on which mode to adopt in amending the 1987 Constitution.

La Union Representative Victor Ortega, chairman of the committee, said they would only proceed with the voting depending on the flow of the discussions.

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“I’m just like a driver,” he said. “It’s my passengers who’ll decide where we are going in this ride.”

Ortega said that while the committee will continue deliberations on Speaker Prospero Nograles’s House Resolution 737, he is not sure whether it will be voted upon or not.

Resolution 737 calls for the amendments of Sections 2 and 3, Article 12 of the Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations and the transfer or conveyance thereto of alienable public and private lands.”

“It would all depend on the proceedings,” Ortega said of the Nograles resolution, which is signed by at least 163 congressmen.

The Nograles resolution has so far gathered 163 signatures, just 15 signatures short of the constitutional requirement of a three-fourths House vote to propose the amendment and bring it up to the Senate.

Meanwhile, the resolution of Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte that calls for Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) to amend the Charter is yet to be referred to the committee. It has reportedly gathered 167 signatures.

Villafuerte is the author of another resolution, yet to be filed, supported by 167 lawmakers to convene Congress into a Con-ass through its three-fourths votes and force the Supreme Court (SC) to decide on the matter whether or not Congress can meet and vote jointly or separately in proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño called on the Ortega panel to cancel the meeting and “abort” its plan to vote on Nograles’s resolution “so we can focus on more urgent measures.”

Ortega, however, said he is willing to sit down and have a dialogue with senators to iron out differences on Cha-cha.

“You know me, I’m amenable to adopt all avenues that would enable us to come to an understanding on this issue, but I’m only the chairman of the committee. I would have to abide by the committee decision,” he said.

Since the Senate is opposed to Con-ass, Villafuerte insisted the House can do it alone without the upper Chamber once it musters the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote or 197 signatories of all 261 members of Congress, which includes the 23 senators.

He anchored his arguments on his interpretation of the intent of Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”

He believed that so long as the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote is met, it is enough to start the process of proposing amendments because the Constitution does not mention the words “House” and “Senate” and merely states “Congress.” (WV/Sunnex)

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