SEN. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he was not inclined to support any move to convene both houses of Congress into a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution, claiming it would be tantamount to signing the Senate’s “death warrant.”
Lacson said he would file his own resolution seeking to convene the Senate as a Constituent Assembly on its own, instead of being a joint body with the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives is free to constitute itself as a Constituent Assembly to introduce revisions to the 1987 Charter, he said.
“What I’m saying is that if we affix our signature in that resolution to have a joint session with the lower house, it will be our death warrant. It’s as if we caused the death of our own institution which is the Senate,” Lacson said in a media forum.
“I will file a Senate resolution to constitute ourselves, the Senate, into a constituent assembly as the upper chamber and wait for the lower house to do the same if they wish,” he said.
Sought for comment on Lacson’s plan, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said: “I have no idea what Senator Ping [Lacson] is going to file but from the bullet points I gather, we will be filing practically the same resolution/idea [which is for the]Senate to propose amendments to or revision of the Constitution and then [require a vote of three-fourths of the assembly].”
Pimentel will file next week his own resolution calling for a Constituent Assembly to tackle Charter change in preparation for the shift to a federal system of government.
Lacson said he saw the crafting of the new Constitution as like legislation, wherein the Senate and House have “equal footing.”
“The philosophy behind here is that if in simple legislation, including amending laws, it needs equal footing with the Senate and House of Representatives, what more if we are amending the Constitution?” he said.
“The two houses will then meet just like in passing an ordinary legislation through a bicameral conference to reconcile disagreeing provisions,” Lacson said.
He added: “If my resolution, which I will file next week, is adopted, we can start proposing our amendments and approve it at least at our level by three-fourths votes.”
There are 24 elected senators but only 23 can vote, because Sen. Leila de Lima is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on drug charges.
Three-fourths translates to 19 votes, Lacson said.
Con-con, not Con-ass
Sen. Grace Poe said that given the extent of the proposed changes to the Constitution, a Constitutional Convention would be the “best and most acceptable mode to take, even if it appears impractical to some.”
“In a Con-Con, revisions to the highest law of the land is tackled with transparency, debated upon by the experts, and shall be decided ultimately by the people and not just those in Congress,” she said.
“However, should my fellow senators collectively decide to agree to a Constitutional Assembly, I support the position of Sen. Ping Lacson that the bicameral congress should vote separately as was actually intended by the framers of the Charter,” Poe said in a text message.
She added: “Any move for a literal interpretation that would obliterate the relevance of the entire Senate by the
300-member lower House in the voting must be rejected for being contrary to spirit of the 1987 Constitution.”
Liberal Party Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 3rd also opposed joint voting.
“For me, it’s non-negotiable. I think, for many of the other senators, if we allow a voting-jointly scenario, we take ourselves out of the game,” he said in a television interview.
“You’re killing yourselves. You’re taking yourselves out and I don’t think any self-respecting senator would want to see that happen. This debate on voting jointly and voting separately will become a contentious issue,” Aquino said.