Jinggoy: Joint Cha-cha voting unconstitutional

Elizabeth Marcelo, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
Jinggoy: Joint Cha-cha voting unconstitutional
Indigenous peoples, Bangsamoro group advocates, and other sectoral organizations stage a protest rally against the people’s initiative or Charter change (Cha-cha) in Mendiola, Manila on February 23, 2024.
Edd Gumban / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — Making both houses of Congress vote jointly and not separately on amending the 1987 Charter would be “unconstitutional,” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters on Viber, Estrada also said congressmen might be setting up a trap for the senators with their insistence that the two chambers jointly tackle Resolution of Both Houses No. 6.

He said such an arrangement might end with the two chambers eventually voting as one.

“Wherever it goes, even if it goes to the Supreme Court, it’s really separate voting,” Estrada said.

When asked whether the Senate would agree to a joint session with the House but voting separately, Estrada said he would “bow to the wisdom of the majority of the senators.”

“We don’t know if it can be a trap or not,” he said, adding that congressmen may have to “present a proof of life.”  

He reiterated his call for congressmen to “heed President Marcos’ advice” that they let the Senate “take the lead” in Cha-cha.  

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the House of Representatives should respect the bicameral nature of Congress instead of insisting that the constituent assembly (con-ass) mode of Charter change be a joint vote.

He was reacting to a claim by members of the lower House that RBH6 was unconstitutional for mandating a separate vote on amendments to the Charter.

The House filed what it called its own version or a copy of RBH6, which it called RBH7.

It only stated in general terms that all members of Congress should vote on the amendments.

Gatchalian cited the statements of constitutional experts and retired justices during the Senate’s hearings that Charter change has to undergo the same bicameral legislative procedure.

“Let us not make this complicated anymore and fight about the modality, because we might never achieve our goal of amending the economic provisions,” Gatchalian said.

“Let’s follow the intention of the framers, which is to vote separately. The President has also settled this matter,” he added.

With the Senate tackling proposals to ease the foreign investment limits on public utilities, advertising and education, Gatchalian said Charter change should also allow foreign investments in natural resources to liberalize renewable energy.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said she is opposed to the “dangerous” Charter change initiative in the Senate because of “vested interests” seeking to reverse the gains of the 1986 People Power revolution.

“Charter change is more dangerous this time because they have learned the lessons of the failed Charter change efforts in the past,” Hontiveros said after a mass at the EDSA Shrine commemorating the 38th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution.

She cited the “fake” people’s initiative led by the group People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (PIRMA), which was found to be linked to Speaker Martin Romualdez.

The senator said she is also against RBH6 which seeks to open public utilities, education and advertising to foreign investments.

Hontiveros cautioned that the Charter change debate could be part of a “historical distortion” meant to erase the democratic gains of People Power that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

“The 1987 Constitution is a result of the Edsa People Power Revolution. Embedded there are the many lessons from our struggle against the martial law dictatorship,” Hontiveros said.

A group of schoolteachers, university professors and education personnel yesterday launched an alliance to block efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Dubbed as the Teachers, Education workers and Academics against Charter Change (TEACH), the alliance aims to raise awareness, especially in schools and universities, about the “dangers of the ongoing Charter change initiative.”

“We, school teachers, professors and education personnel coming from different schools and universities stand in unity to protect the 1987 Constitution,” the group said in a statement.

TEACH lead convenor, David Michael San Juan, said their group is specifically concerned over the possibility of the economic provisions of the current Constitution being liberalized to attract foreign capital.

“As we speak, our educational paradigm is already foreign-oriented. It will only worsen with Cha-cha,” San Juan said.

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