Chiz seeks to mend House-Senate ties before another Cha-cha word war

Chiz seeks to mend House-Senate ties before another Cha-cha word war
Senate President Francis "Chiz" Escudero
Instagram / Chiz Escudero

MANILA, Philippines — Even as he remains unconvinced about changing the Charter, Senate President Chiz Escudero said on Thursday that he wants to repair the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives to prevent another heated public exchange among lawmakers.

Escudero, whose recent ascension to the Senate presidency has been endorsed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said that he will reach out to House Speaker Martin Romualdez soon to address how the two chambers can avoid trading barbs even with their disagreements on Charter change.

"It's not befitting for lawmakers to exchange unparliamentary remarks. We can probably start there before we discuss other issues," Escudero said in Filipino during Thursday's Kapihan sa Senado forum. 

The newly-installed Senate president also said that he envisions himself as a leader that will serve as a "bridge to finding solutions to problems" instead of flip-flopping on his position.

A measure proposing economic amendments to the 1987 Constitution was passed on final reading at the House in March, but a similar version remains pending at the committee level in the Senate, where senators remain divided due to concerns about possible insertions of political amendments.

This, too, remains a concern for Escudero, who said that the years-long difficulty in passing Charter amendments can be attributed to "hidden motives" by its proponents.

"The primary reason why Charter change does not push through or gets delayed is because of people's doubts about the motives behind it," Escudero said.

"If people are asked directly about wheter they are for or against is, I believe this will make it more likely to reach the final stage of approval," the Senate president added.

Future Senate committee hearings tackling Charter change have also been been suspended indefinitely after Sen. Sonny Angara's resignation as chairperson of the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, Escudero said.

The new Senate president, however, stopped short of saying the upper chamber will no longer consider measures related to Charter change. "It's not for me to say," Escudero said on May 20.

In January, the Senate unanimously expressed its opposition to the people's initiative (PI) signature drive to change the Charter, which has been hounded by allegations of bribery and of being orchestrated by the lower chamber.

Senators were particularly concerned about how the PI sought to amend the Constitution to allow all members of Congress to jointly vote on proposed constitutional amendments in a constituent assembly. This meant the 24-member Senate would be outnumbered by the House.

This triggered a series of public exchanges between senators and House lawmakers. At one point, a House member part of the constituional amendments committee questioned Zubiri's ability to lead the Senate and whether senators were "no longer listening to him."

For Escudero, he believes the Senate's counterparts in the House are aware of the independence of both chambers.

The Senate's Resolution of Both Houses 6 proposes amendments to specific economic provisions on public utilities, basic educational institutions, and the advertising industry. — Cristina Chi

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