ARROYO ALLIES SAY--Constituent assembly convenes in July
Only SC can stop Charter change
By Villamor Visaya Jr., Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 21:50:00 06/07/2009
Filed Under: Charter change, Politics, Elections, Eleksyon 2010,
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies
in the House of Representatives said they would convene a constituent
assembly to amend the Constitution without the Senate when Congress
reopens in July despite outrage by religious and civil society groups.
Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan, one of the authors of House
Resolution 1109, which calls for a constituent assembly, said the
House would start the Charter change process upon the resumption of
Congress sessions in July by “inviting everyone” to form the
constituent assembly, including senators.
Domogan said the assembly would proceed even if senators refused to
cooperate and they would only stop if the high court stepped in to
rule on HR 1109’s constitutionality.
“We want the court to settle once and for all how to interpret the
provisions guiding Charter amendments so that the next Congress won’t
have to argue should they move to invoke this mode of amending the
Constitution,” Domogan said.
Domogan said on Sunday that administration lawmakers were aware that
they were taking a calculated risk in approving the measure before
adjourning the 14th session of Congress last week.
Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino said that the House
leadership was considering sending HR 1109 to individual senators, and
not the Senate as a body, for endorsement.
Antonino said that this would serve as an invitation to attend the
He said the constituent assembly would be convened a few weeks before
the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 27 in order to
create a “justiceable” cause for the Supreme Court to lay down a final
ruling on how should a constituent assembly be formed.
He said lawmakers were hoping that public outrage would provoke a
challenge in the Supreme Court on the House position that amendments
to the Constitution could be approved by three-fourths of the entire
membership of the two chambers voting jointly.
The 23-member Senate has opposed the move, but Arroyo allies expect to
overcome the upper chamber’s resistance with their sheer number in the
House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. said: “I don’t believe the
House will convene without the Senate or at least majority of them
must signify their intention to attend.”
Otherwise, the Iloilo lawmaker said, this would put the House in bad
Defensor said the call to convene a constituent assembly would be made
by Speaker Prospero Nograles, “but he will have to first get a
consensus of all leaders before making a declaration.”
A pastoral statement issued over the weekend by Jaro Archbishop Angel
Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines, urged peaceful protests against HR 1109, but Domogan said
the Church action was “premature.”
“The final judge would be the Filipino people in a plebiscite that
[would] ratify whatever proposals that would be approved [by a
constituent assembly],” Domogan told reporters in Baguio.
Referring to criticism that Charter change was meant to prolong the
term of the President, which is will end next year, Domogan pointed
out that HR 1109 did not seek the extension of term limits of elective
In Isabela, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Malacañang was
respecting the principle of separation of powers and would not meddle
in Congress’ moves to change the Constitution.
But Bello said lawmakers should explain to the public their decision
in passing HR 1109.
“The people have the right to know the reason behind their action,” he
said. “The public must have an open mind regarding this resolution.”
Lawyer Oliver Lozano and his daughter on Wednesday went to the Supreme
Court to challenge HR 1109.