By ALDWIN QUITASOL
MANILA — The bid for charter change (cha-cha) gained a favorable start as a resolution for a formation of a constituent assembly was submitted to the House of Representatives by Speaker Prospero Nograles on April 21.
The said resolution was drafted by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte seeking for a joint assembly of Senate and House of Representatives members voting proposals to change the present constitution. Barely a month earlier, the chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments La Union Rep. Luis Ortega said the con-ass resolution will be given attention and promised to rule on it during the resumption of Congressional sessions on April 13.
Ortega announced on March 30 that the draft resolution of Villafuerte signed by other 174 congressmen could be the first to be prioritized over the other resolutions that were sent earlier to his committee. Speaker Nograles earlier said he would file the Villafuerte resolution upon the resumption of session on April 13.
On April 21, the Nograles resolution or House Bill 737 which was co-authored by 161 representatives from the majority seeking amendments to the economic provisions of the constitution was deliberated by House members. Several members of the minority attempted to block said discussion but was suppressed by the majority in a series of voting. After hours of long debates and arguments, Ortega proceeded to push for the sponsorship speech of HR 737 to start the plenary debates. In his sponsorship speech, Ortega asked House members to be open minded on amending the Charter, specifically changing its economic provisions.
Nueva Ecija Rep. Eduardo Nonato Joson questioned the Nograles resolution and demanded to postpone the deliberations. Joson cited Article XVII of the Pihilippine Constitution that Congress must first convene into a constituent assembly before making amendments to the Charter.
Reps. Pablo Garcia of Cebu, Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin, and Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City delivered co-sponsorship speeches.
Domogan explained that Congress do not need to convene as a constituent assembly before discussing charter change. He claimed that even the well-known constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said that there is no difference between Congress and a constituent assembly.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Party List Rep. Liza Maza questioned the Chacha discussion even without the knowledge and approval of the Senate. Maza added that the Senate be informed and should agree to the ongoing Cha-cha discussion in the lower house. She also said that the sectors to be mainly affected by Chacha like the peasants, workers and indigenous peoples have not even be consulted.
A three-fourths vote of Congress, with the House and the Senate convened as one body is required to amend the Constitution under the Con-ass mode.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that the members of Congress are already acting on their constituent powers and have ceased to become legislators when deliberating on the Con-ass. “It is quite innocent,” he said. “But this is dangerous. Anything can happen in a Con-ass,” said Rodriguez.
Congressmen oppossing Cha-Cha are expected to question the resolution in the Supreme Court. # nordis.net