Set rules first re Cha Cha
The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday met to discuss charter change issues.
The House said that Congress should and agree on substantive matters first, such as reviewing the structure of government, basic economic provisions, and transitory provisions before deciding on separate or joint voting.
However, Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws said the Senate stands firm in its position that both Houses must agree on how voting will proceed if the constitution will be amended by both chambers of Congress acting as a constituent assembly.
“We agreed on this during the caucus of the Senate committee prior to the meeting with the House. We even took this up during our committee hearings last January 18 and May 3, wherein resource persons such as Justice Mendoza and Dean Carlota opined that congress must vote separately, in accordance with the Constitution.” Gordon disclosed.
“Congress is bicameral, and we respect our counterparts in the House and their views on what changes need to be made to the constitution. I myself believe that there are provisions in the constitution that we need to reassess. These things must be deliberated upon, when the time is right, so that the people will understand and own the Constitution.” said Gordon.
“Be that as it may, before any discussion and deliberation can begin, we have to agree on the issue of voting. It’s not about wanting to get our own way. It’s about being logical about the process and deciding NOW on an issue which will inevitably arise.” He explained.
The senator also said “let’s say we spend a year, or even just 6 months debating on economic provisions for example. And finally the Senate has its version and the House has its version. At that point Congress has to vote, but no one knows whether we vote separately or jointly.”
“There’s your problem right there, because if there is no agreement on that, charter change will be stalled. In short, it will be necessary to come back and answer the question that we are already asking now. So why put it off?” Gordon noted.
“Let me put in another way. In the same way that basketball players need to know the rules before they play the game, we must know the steps before we dance the cha-cha. Otherwise we’ll be running around in circles, going nowhere.”
According to Gordon “you decide on the rules beforehand so that if conflict comes up later, you know how to decide. You don’t play the game first and make the rules up as you go along. How will you know if a foul is committed, if you don’t define what a foul is in the first place.”