The congressional debate on charter change (Cha-cha) heated up on Saturday as Sen. Panfilo Lacson debunked a new claim by a lawmaker at the House of Representatives that tackling the proposed amendments was in line with a resolution he authored in the 17th Congress.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Lacson referred to a claim by Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, that Senate Resolution 580, which the senator introduced in January 2018, allows both Houses to tackle amendments to the Constitution without the need for a joint session.

Lacson clarified that the proposed changes to the Constitution would “undergo the regular lawmaking process.”

“This means proposed amendments to the Charter are to be tackled at the committee level first, then approved in the plenary, before both Houses convene into a constituent assembly. Nowhere in the resolution does it say na committee pa lang, Con-Ass (constituent assembly) na” (Nowhere in the resolution does it say that while it is still in the committee, it is already considered a Con-Ass),” Lacson said.

Lacson said Garbin was changing his tune by saying Wednesday’s deliberations were an exercise of a constituent power rather than a constituent assembly.

“Kaya patawarin uli natin siya. Hindi naman niya alam ngayon ang sinasabi niya (We should forgive him again. He does not know what he is saying now),” he said.

Lacson questioned on Wednesday Garbin’s claim that his panel was sitting as a constituent assembly, as Art.17, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution itself decrees that any amendment to the Charter may be proposed by the Congress — meaning the Senate and the House of Representatives — or a constitutional convention.

“Last time we heard, the Congress of the Philippines is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Lacson said at the time.

Respect

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez on Saturday said he respected the decision of his friend, Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, in joining the newly-formed bloc “BTS in Congress.”

BTS, composed of former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his close allies, stands for “Back to Service.” According to its members, the group aims to revert to the “House of the People” instead of the “House of Politics.”

“I respect Mike’s diligence, views and opinions, political and otherwise,” Romualdez said.
Defensor had been removed as chairman of public accounts after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco assumed office.

Romualdez also confirmed that Defensor is affiliated with Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), which he currently leads.

“Congressman Mike Defensor is a friend, a dear friend. It is also true that he is affiliated with our party, the Lakas-CMD, along with other party-list congressmen and congresswomen whom we consider allies in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Amid recent tirades between members of BTS and Velasco’s allies, Romualdez maintained his commitment to work with all House members regardless of affiliation.

The other members of the new bloc are Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, who had been stripped off deputy speaker posts; Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, who had also been booted out as chairman of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

The bloc hit the current leadership, claiming that it had been prioritizing political issues such as charter change instead of urgent issues such as the government’s vaccination program, unemployment, poverty, transportation and the contribution hike in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

BTS members also criticized the supposed lack of congressional investigations and the dissolution of the Defeat Covid-19 Committee formed by Cayetano, which focused on measures to address the various impacts of the pandemic.

WITH DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ





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