THE Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately if Congress decides to convene as a Constituent Assembly to revise the 1987 Constitution, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said on Tuesday.
Puno said the intent of the Constitution is to distribute the balance of power between the Senate and the House of Representatives, and this should apply to constitutional changes.
Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution, which covers amendments or revisions to the Charter, states that “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) a constitutional convention.”
“We should follow the intent of the law because if we will follow the letter [of the Constitution]we will lose the balance of power between the Senate and the House, and the Senate will not agree,” Puno said in a radio interview aired over DZMM.
The former chief justice explained that the reason the words “voting separately” was not explicitly stated in the Constitution was because the committee in charge of proposing the form of government under the 1986 Constitutional Commission, which drafted the 1987 Constitution, failed to revise its original proposal.
That committee pushed for a parliamentary form of government with only one chamber, which was why the words “voting separately” were not included, Puno said.
However, when the committee submitted its proposal to the commission, it did not adopt the parliamentary form and instead came up with a Congress with two houses—the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Puno also noted that while Con-Con and Con-Ass are both legal modes of amending the Constitution, it would be the first time that Con-Ass would be used.
Con-Ass was originally intended for piecemeal amendments, he pointed out, although it doesn’t mean that it should not be used to revise the entire Constitution, he said.
A big issue with Con-Ass is that Congress will have to grapple with conflict of interest, he added.
Puno cited as example the proposed abolition of the party-list system, which could be difficult since 20 percent of the House of Representatives are party-list lawmakers.
The proposed ban on political dynasties is another example, Puno said.
“So these are the situations where I think conflict of interest may come into play. But while I think that it will be difficult, they (lawmakers) can rise above their self-interest. Also, my assumption is that our countrymen will watch the process closely,” he added.