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‘Senators sowing discord, alienating House members’

Sheila Crisostomo, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The verbal tussle among lawmakers over Charter change continues, with House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe accusing senators yesterday of sowing discord to undermine the House of Representatives “at a time when our nation beckons for unity and cooperative governance.”

“This unnecessary rift hampers our collective ability to address the pressing issues facing our nation – from economic recovery and infrastructure development to health care and education,” Dalipe said in a statement.

He warned that the squabble over Charter change would have serious repercussions on the “everyday lives of ordinary Filipinos.”

Some senators have openly accused the House led by Speaker Martin Romualdez of spearheading the ongoing signature campaign as part of the push for people’s initiative to change the Constitution. Proponents of the people’s initiative seek the convening of a constituent assembly where the Senate and the lower House would vote as one – instead of separately – on proposed Charter amendments.

For Dalipe, the senators’ tirade against the House of Representatives is “undermining the institution’s integrity and the collaborative efforts put forth by Speaker Martin Romualdez.”

With their “baseless” pronouncements, the senators also risk “alienating the representatives” of more than 300 legislative districts across the country, he said.

“It is immensely troubling to witness a select group of senators engaging in baseless attacks against the Speaker and our esteemed colleagues in the House of Representatives,” he maintained.

He noted that the House leadership “extended an olive branch” to its Senate counterpart in a “gesture of goodwill” and to signal its readiness to “collaboratively amend our Constitution through a constituent assembly.”

Betrayal

But he said the House gesture was met with “betrayal” by some senators who “opted to wield their words like daggers, aiming at the very heart of legislative camaraderie.”

“As representatives of the Filipino people, we are duty-bound to rise above petty politics and work hand in hand for the betterment of our beloved Philippines,” he added.

The lawmaker said it is imperative that both chambers “mend the fissures caused by such unprovoked hostilities and realign our focus towards the monumental task of constitutional reform, in the spirit of cooperation and for the greater good of our country.”

Dalipe added that when the legislative bodies are in conflict, “it is the Filipino people who suffer the consequences. Crucial reforms are delayed, and the opportunity to create meaningful change is lost amidst the discord.”

“Let us not muddle the issues. Let us all go back to work and join hands in amending the Constitution using the mode of constituent assembly. Our focus should be on lifting the restrictive economic provisions that restrict the inflows of foreign investments into the country,” he added.

Sober voice

For Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, it is time for cooler heads to prevail as he offered to be the sober voice in the raging dispute.

“What I learned in politics is simple. It cannot be ‘the end justifies the means.’ You can’t just cut ties. You’ll burn the house down if you do that,” Cayetano said in an ambush interview on Friday.

“If I could be of service to the President, House, Senate, why not? That’s why I am keeping my opinion to myself, so that there will be room to talk,” Cayetano, a former Senate president, said.

Cayetano said the senators have the right to oppose the con-ass move that would dissolve the Senate’s 24 votes when Congress convenes, eventually leading to the Senate’s abolition.

“They want to shortcut the process of voting by doing it jointly. Basically – because they could not convince the senators on their proposal – they want to abolish the Senate,” Cayetano said.

“The reality is that when you are at war, everything stops and you focus on survival. For the Senate, this becomes a survival issue not just because we are protecting our position, but also the institution,” he added.

Cayetano urged both chambers of Congress to sit down and talk to settle the issue and avert “the start of a constitutional crisis.”

“We need to fix this because, in the end, if the House and the Senate get into a fistfight, it is the people who will have a black eye,” he stressed.

“If we cannot settle this, the people only have one thing to say – PI,” he added, referring to the acronym of both the people’s initiative and a Filipino curse word.

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CHARTER CHANGE

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