Bypass Senate? Nene Pimentel tells Alvarez to re-read Constitution

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate president Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr advised his party mate, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, to re-read the 1987 Constitution following the latter’s statement that the constituent assembly would push through even without the Senate.

Pimentel said the Constitution mandates that members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives should propose amendments to the Charter.

Sabihin ko na lang, basahin niya ulit yung Constitution sapagkat (I'll just say that he should read the Constitution again because) that is not what is envisioned in the Constitution. When you talk about Congress as a body to revise the Constitution by 3/4 vote of its members, you are talking about two Houses… not the House of Representatives only," Pimentel told reporters in an interview on Tuesday, January 23.

He also agreed with sitting senators that there should be a separate voting on the amendments. Otherwise, he said, the Senate’s voice would be drowned out by the nearly 300-member House.

“'Di pwedeng solohin ng House…  (The House can't take on it alone.) I would really suggest that they rethink that kind of position. And between the two houses they agree on procedures but I think the Senate should insist thaat the voting be done separately because otherwise, the 24 members of the Senate would be swallowed up by tsunami of more than 258 [House members],” he said.

Pimentel also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to settle the issue between the two chambers, as they are mostly his allies.

"What is the stumbling block of these two houses to act together?" he said.

Alvarez insists

Alvarez has said that the House does not need to wait for the Senate before it could convene as Con-Ass because the Constitution simply doesn’t require it.

Ano bang assembly? Asan ba nakalagay ang assembly na yan sa Constitution? Nag-umpisa na nga kami eh (What assembly? Where is it in the Constitution? We are already starting),” Alvarez told reporters during a press conference on Monday, January 22. (READ: Constitution 'not a poem' you can put meaning into – Alvarez)

Alvarez said repeatedly that the House was already working on amendments to the Constitution. “Wala na eh. Saan nakalagay sa Constitution na kailangan magco-convene? (No need. Where does it say in the Constitution that we need to convene)?” said Alvarez.

While the Constitution itself does not directly name “Constituent Assembly” as a way of amending the Constitution, the term is used to refer to Congress convening to specifically change the Charter.

Article 17, Section 1 states that any amendment or revision may be proposed by Congress, upon a vote of 3/4 of all its members (Con-Ass). It is silent on the manner of voting.

Senators have slammed Alvarez for his pronouncements. 

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, however, is confident that the House would not push through with its plan.

After all, Pimentel said the House transmitted to the Senate a copy of House Concurrent Resolution No. 9, calling on Congress to convene into a Con-Ass and at the same time seeking the Senate’s concurrence. –