The mode by which the leadership of the House of Representatives plans to amend the 1987 Constitution is “unsafe” as this would invite a strong constitutional challenge before the high tribunal, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno said on Tuesday.
Puno instead suggested that House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and his allies take a safer route by convening the House and the Senate jointly in coming up with the proposed amendments while voting on them separately afterwards.
“My suggestion is let’s take the safer route. Let’s not take unnecessary risks,” Puno told members of the House committee on constitutional amendments chaired by Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano.
Also, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza claimed that Puno’s proposed method would be best pursued by Cha-cha advocates in Congress.
The two along with retired Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna, Dean Danilo Concepcion of the University of the Philippines College of Law, and Jose Antonio of the Bernas Law Office attended the hearing to shed light on the Cha-cha mode espoused by Belmonte.
Belmonte plans to subject his proposed amendment to the ordinary legislative process through the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote, with the two Houses of Congress voting separately.
Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that any amendment to, or revision of the Constitution may be proposed by the Congress “upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”
The House leader argued that since the Charter does not specifically require Congress to sit jointly in exercising its constituent powers, he and the other proponents of Resolution of Both Houses of Congress No. 1 believe that the amendment can be undertaken through a three-fourths vote of all members of the House and the Senate even without jointly convening.
RBH No. 1 is geared towards removing the 60-40 percent Filipino-foreign investor equity limitations as well as allowing foreigners to own up to 100 percent of land and businesses.
The measure seeks to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in specific areas of the Constitution: natural resources, foreign ownership of land, media, education and advertising.
Puno, however, said the Lower House cannot proceed with its chosen mode given the historical background of the 1987 Charter, which he said, was a “product of inadvertence.”
“It was approved not in the finest moments of the Constitutional Commission,” he said. “You cannot proceed given that reality. Given the historical background, you can’t proceed with that kind of logic.”
Puno was referring to the mistake of the Con-Com’s Committee on amendments and Transitory Provision, which he said “neglected” to amend he Constitution’s amendatory provision by specifying that the Charter can be amended through a three-fourths vote of two Houses of Congress voting separately.
The provision, which was tailor-fit for a unicameral legislature, was not amended despite the eventual adoption of a bicameral legislature.