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House, Senate urged to end Cha-cha word war

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
House, Senate urged to end Cha-cha word war
In a statement, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said congressional leaders should “sit down and privately settle their feud” over the House’s push for constitutional amendments, “instead of quarreling before the public.”
Boy Santos , file

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker yesterday urged members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to end the “word war” over constitutional amendments.

In a statement, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said congressional leaders should “sit down and privately settle their feud” over the House’s push for constitutional amendments, “instead of quarreling before the public.”

Barzaga added that House and Senate leaders should observe “parliamentary courtesy,” as he underscored that disagreements between the two camps on Charter change (Cha-cha) initiatives could have been avoided had the Senate first voted on the measure before announcing that it does not have the numbers to push for it.

“There is a word war between Senate President (Juan Miguel Zubiri) and Speaker (Martin Romualdez) and (House committee on constitutional amendments) chairman Rufus
 (Rodriguez). Sometimes, it is embarrassing,” the lawmaker said.

“We are veteran legislators, so the differences in our opinions we should settle privately,” he added.

The word war started when Zubiri made a pronouncement that the delay in the enforcement of the implementing guidelines of three laws appeared to have been caused by the House’s push for amending the economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, according to Barzaga.

These laws pertain to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act and Foreign Investment Act.

The lawmaker said that such a delay is not the fault of the lower chamber as the issuance of the implementing guidelines of the three laws is the “act of the executive independent of the action of the House and also of the Senate.”

“Unfortunately, now, the insinuation of Senate President Migz Zubiri was bad, so our Speaker and chairman Rufus Rodriguez replied. This is really already embarrassing. The heads of the chambers of the lawmaking body are quarreling before the public,” he added.

Barzaga, one of the lawmakers who supports amendments to the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution, explained that the lower chamber is in a hurry to have the initiative approved because it wants to save money by holding the election of constitutional convention (con-con) delegates simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections this October.

He pointed out that the delegates who crafted the 1973 Constitution were elected simultaneously with the local elections in 1971.

“It will be more costly if we will have a separate election to determine who shall be the con-con delegates. We will be questioned by our countrymen and by the critics of the administration,” he said.

Barzaga, who is a lawyer, said that if the Senate really does not have the numbers, Zubiri could have just ordered Senate committee on constitutional amendments chair Robinhood Padilla “not to proceed with the public hearings anymore because it will only be a waste of time.”

Barzaga maintained that the Senate leadership should have waited for Padilla’s committee to vote on the Cha-cha measure, instead of “prematurely announcing” that it does not have the numbers.

If approved, debates and discussions can be made later in the Senate plenary.

“I wish they had pushed through with Sen. Padilla’s (proposal). I think it will hurdle the committee level, so it can be taken up in the plenary,” he added.

Barzaga also defended Padilla from critics who are questioning the former action star’s qualifications to head his panel, saying there is no rule that the chair of the committee on constitutional amendments must be a lawyer.

“(Padilla) has the mandate of the people. You don’t have to be a lawyer as long as you know what you want to change. That’s why he was having public hearings, he is not a one-man rule,” Barzaga said, pointing out that Padilla led the senatorial race last year.

Last March 6, the House passed Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, proposing Cha-cha through a con-con.

The following day, the House approved House Bill 7352, a supplemental bill that shall provide funding for the con-con.

Unpopular

Efforts to change the Constitution remain unpopular among Filipinos, thus Sen. Cynthia Villar is not likely to support it.

“In my experience, Cha-cha is always unpopular, so I am not confident. People don’t want that, if people don’t want it, why should we do it?” Villar said in an interview with radio dwIZ.

“It seems like it will be difficult for us to support that if people don’t want it,” she added.

Since people appeared to be not supportive of efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution, Villar said Congress could just continue to pass economic measures to help boost the country’s economy.

“Economic provisions can be passed through legislation. We have been passing economic legislations, and we can continue doing that,” she added.

The senator agreed with President Marcos not to prioritize the issue as the country has so many other problems that should be dealt with.

Meanwhile, in an interview also with dwIZ, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said he would first read the committee report to be presented by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.

“I will read the report first. As a support, I will sign, but will interpellate,” Dela Rosa added.

Padilla earlier said members of the House of Representatives are expected to attend a public hearing of a Senate panel tomorrow to discuss the mode of amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

He added that he is set to hold a hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments with House members in attendance also tomorrow to discuss the mode of amending the economic provisions – a constituent assembly (con-ass) or a con-con.

The House had passed a resolution seeking to amend the Constitution’s economic provisions through a con-con.

“If con-con, it will be brought to the Senate. We will impose the responsibility on the House to explain, so they will present it to the senators,” Padilla said mostly in Filipino.

Padilla recently wrapped up public hearings on proposed measures to encourage more foreign investments by amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, even as he will discuss the issue with counterparts from the House this week.

Dela Rosa joined the hearing.

With a Powerpoint presentation, Padilla showed that amending the Constitution through a con-con would cost about P14.7 billion while con-ass would incur only P46 million if done simultaneously with the barangay and SK elections.

If not done simultaneously with the local elections, the senator said the amount would be bigger.

He added that a con-con would cost about P28.5 billion while con-ass would incur P13.8 billion. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

 

ELPIDIO BARZAGA

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