Pimentel: Senate, House to vote separately on Constitution changes

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Pimentel: Senate, House to vote separately on Constitution changes

Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said on Tuesday that he is looking at separate voting should the Senate and the House convene into a constituent assembly. Twitter/Senate, File

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday gave his assurance that the Senate and the House of Representatives would be voting separately amid apprehension the smaller upper chamber will be outvoted by the 294-member House of Representatives.

Pimentel bared on Monday that he would file this week a resolution that would call on the Senate to sit with the House as a constituent assembly to revise the 1987 Constitution and to adopt a federal form of government.

However, some senators fear that they would be outvoted by the House if the two bodies vote jointly. The Duterte administration has control of the majority blocs of both houses of Congress.

Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said that Pimentel might not have the support for his resolution unless senators are assured of separate voting in a constituent assembly.

According to Lacson, the issue on voting should be settled first before the mode of amending the Constitution is tackled.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also expressed qualms over the possibility of joint voting, saying that such a setup would render the Senate irrelevant because of the sheer superiority in number of the House.

In response to a question on the body's voting setup, Pimentel said in a text message to Philstar.com, "Voting separately."

"The interpretation of the Senate, and my personal interpretation, is voting separately," Pimentel, a lawyer and a bar topnotcher, said in an interview with reporters on Monday.

READ:  Duterte wants Constitution change but dispels fears of holding onto power

The 1987 Constitution prescribes three modes of changes or amendments to the charter.

Under a constituent assembly, the senators and representatives in congress will act as members of the body which will discuss the proposed changes and amendments. Some senators and congressmen prefer this as this is supposedly a more efficient and cheaper means of altering the country's basic law.

Another mode of changing the Constitution is through a constitutional convention in which delegates from the country's legislative districts will be elected to work on the changes or amendments to the charter.

Finally, modifications to the basic law may also be done by the people through an initiative on a petition signed by at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters and in which every legislative district is represented by at least three percent of the registered voters there.

READ: Federalism: What Filipinos need to know

Pimentel said he will hold a caucus with senators to discuss the contents of the resolution after he files it.

Drilon, a former Justice secretary, said in an interview with ANC that he doesn't think that the framers of the 1987 Constitution countenanced joint voting on changes to the charter since the country had a congress with two houses.

For Lacson, the issue may reach the Supreme Court since the provision on voting in the current Constitution is "quite vague."

"The SC (Supreme Court) will have to come up with an interpretation that will put to rest that issue of voting jointly or separately," the former police chief said in a text message.

Lacson said that unless the issue on voting is clarified, signing the resolution is "tantamount to affixing our signatures on our own 'death warrant."

"This early, I can say without a doubt, I will not sign," the senator said.

Pimentel said on Monday that he is aiming to hold a plebiscite on the new charter simultaneous with the May 2019 elections, a year later than the May 2018 target of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

READ: Rody completes list of Con-com members





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