Marcos consulting legal luminaries on economic Cha-cha

Helen Flores, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Marcos consulting legal luminaries on economic Cha-cha
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos meet the Filipino community in Hanoi, Vietnam on January 29, 2024.
STAR / KJ Rosales

HANOI – Amid the ongoing feud between the House of Representatives and the Senate over the people’s initiative, President Marcos yesterday disclosed that he is consulting legal luminaries and Constitution experts on the most acceptable way to amend the economic provisions of the Charter.

Expressing his resolve to ease the restrictive economic provisions that hinder investments, Marcos emphasized that he does not want economic Charter change to be used for a political agenda.

“We have been in continuous discussion with both houses in recent days. In fact, I met with our legal luminaries and tried to find a way because I’m really after the economic provisions,” he said in an interview with Philippine media covering his two-day state visit here.

“I have asked the leaders of both houses and again some of the best constitutional minds that we have in the Philippines to come up with a simpler solution that does not cause so much controversy,” he added.

The best advice that they are getting, according to the President, is that the legislature is of a bicameral nature and therefore they must vote separately.

Meanwhile, two retired Supreme Court justices said the House cannot propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution in a constituent assembly (con-ass) without the help of the 24-member Senate.

Retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Adolfo Azcuna and Antonio Carpio gave their opinion during yesterday’s Senate electoral reforms committee hearing into the bribery that hounded the people’s initiative.

At the hearing, the constitutionalists doused the senators’ fears that the push for a con-ass would exclude the Senate in the Charter change debate.

Since Congress is composed of the House and the Senate, Azcuna said any act by Congress – including proposing amendments to the Charter – should require that both chambers meet a quorum before convening in a con-ass.

The standoff in Congress stemmed from the fact that the 1987 Constitution is silent on whether Congress should vote jointly or separately in the con-ass.

Should the people’s initiative succeed to make con-ass a joint vote by Congress, the 315-strong House would indeed outnumber the Senate in the required three-fourths vote to approve the amendments.

But they could not proceed with the amendment if the Senate boycotts the proceedings or does not meet the quorum, Justice Azcuna pointed out.

“Let’s say you have 315 representatives and 24 senators. 339 all in all. And three-fourths of that is 254,” Azcuna said. “Of the 254, thirteen has to be senators. Otherwise, it is not an act of Congress, because it does not involve an act of the Senate. And Congress is Senate and House.”

Azcuna said it is likely that the House would outnumber the Senate if Congress votes jointly, but it doesn’t mean that the Senate is “out of the picture.”

“Even if you vote jointly, it has to be jointly with Senate and House voting together. It has to be both Senate and House acting together. Even if Senate is outvoted, there has to be the Senate’s participation,” he added.

Carpio agreed with his fellow legal luminary, as he also pointed out that any legislative process should go through both chambers of Congress – whether that be a law renaming a city road, or an assembly to propose amendments to the Charter.

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