Former Chief Justices say Congress should vote on cha-cha separately
Two former Supreme Court (SC) chief justices on Wednesday said that if the Congress should convene in a constituent assembly (con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution, voting should be done separately and not jointly.
Although he saw absolutely “no need” to amend or revise the Constitution, former SC chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. said that he agreed with highly-respected constitutionalist Father Joaquin Bernas who said that the provision “says nothing about a joint session.”
“Since nothing is said about a joint session, it is submitted that each house may separately formulate amendments by vote of three fourths of all its members and then pass it on to the other House for a similar process. Disagreements can be settled through a conference committee,” Davide said citing Bernas.
Davide made this statement during the third Senate hearing into charter change.
Citing Bernas, Davide also said that both Houses should vote separately because the power to propose amendments was given not to a unicameral body but to a bicameral body.
Former SC chief justice Reynato Puno, who was for charter change, said that he also believed that the Congress should vote separately as voting jointly meant the cancellation of the participation of the Senate.
“When a bicameral Congress convenes as a con-ass, the intent, the tradition and the practice, is to make the two houses vote as separate and independent institutions,” Puno said.
Puno also said that the two houses had different constituencies – members of the House represent districts while members of Senate represent the nation.
“As institutions, they are equal. They have different perspectives and these perspectives have to be reflected institutionally,” he added.
Puno also pointed out that the numerical superiority of the House of Representatives will simply overwhelm the Senate.
Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr., a federalism advocate, said that voting should be done separately but hearings should still be held jointly.
“I submit that it would be best if two houses of congress should be held jointly but they should vote separately,” Pimentel said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who on Monday filed a resolution asking the Senate to convene into a constituent con-ass, said that he “wished” that congressmen who insisted on voting jointly were listening to their hearing which is currently being live-streamed.
“I’m wishing that the congressmen who were strongly batting for a joint voting were listening kanina para mahinaan na sila ng loob at ipagpilitan na hindi kami dapat voting separately (earlier so that they would be discouraged to insist that we should not vote separately),” Lacson said.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a resolution that will allow Congress to convene as a con-ass and vote jointly.
However, the Senate has a united stand on voting separately. (PNA)