Con-Ass railroaded? ‘Unfair, unfounded’ – Fariñas

MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas hit back at House opposition members who criticized the adoption of a House Concurrent Resolution calling on Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly, pointing out that it went through the proper process.

“HCR Number 9 has been exhaustively discussed in the plenary. The House members decided it was time to vote on it after hearing the discussion and debates on the measure,” said Fariñas in a statement to media two days after the resolution was passed on January 16, Tuesday.

Representatives from the Makabayan bloc, as well as another independent opposition bloc, hit the House leadership for allegedly rushing HCR 9 during session on Tuesday.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao was interpellating on the floor when Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice, who belongs to the independent opposition bloc, questioned the quorum.

At least 186 House members were present, enough to sustain quorum. It was then moved that the measure be put to a vote. Despite the protestations of Casilao and ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, another Makabayan bloc member, the vote pushed through.

In the statement, Fariñas pointed out that the House committee on constitutional amendments had held public hearings not only in the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City but even in cities such as Dagupan, Davao, Bacolod, and Tacloban.

Fariñas insisted there was enough time to scrutinize the proposal, noting the committee report was filed in February 2017, placed in the House calendar of business in March 2017, and eventually sponsored in December 2017.

“Nothing at all has been railroaded,” insisted the representative from Ilocos Norte.

Composed of existing members of Congress, Con-Ass is one of the ways to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

There is a debate, however, on how Congress will constitute as a Con-Ass. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insists the House and Senate should vote jointly, citing the Constitution.

But senators do not want a joint vote and have made a “unanimous” decision to reject all proposals for a joint vote.

Article XVII in the Constitution is vague as to how Congress should convene. Framers of the Constitution have explained that this is because when it was drafted, the assumption was that the country would have a unicameral legislature. When it was decided that a bicameral set-up would be implemented, this part of the Constitution remained unchanged.

Framers have said the Con-Ass should be convened separately, to reflect the bicameral set-up. –