THE former head of President Arroyo’s Kampi political party led 174 congressmen yesterday in filing House Resolution 1109, which proposed to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (Consa) to amend the Constitution.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, who drafted the proposal, said that with 174 congressmen as authors, the resolution only needs five more signatures to come into force and empower the lawmakers as Consa to change the Charter.
Villafuerte insisted that the Constitution does not make a distinction between the House and Senate. “That means that if we could get 179 votes of all members of Congress, the 238-member House and the 24-member Senate, the amendments would next be submitted to a plebiscite.”
Villafuerte said it is imperative for Congress to identify a mode first before it takes up amendments on the floor. “In filing HR 1109, we want to provoke a justiciable controversy to compel the Supreme Court to make a ruling on whether or not we can convene into a constituent assembly with all members of Congress voting jointly, not separately.”
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora agreed with Villafuerte in putting on hold the plenary debate on HR 737 that seeks to amend two sections of the Constitution on foreign land ownership and land control.
“That is the right thing to do. The House should identify a mode first before it can attempt to tinker with the Charter,” Zamora said.
Despite protests from the opposition, HR 737 was sponsored on the floor Tuesday evening, formally opening the debates on it.
Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo said he co-authored the resolution and made sure that it does not lift the term limits or extend the term of her mother, President Arroyo.
“I signed the Consa resolution because there is a need to amend the Constitution but it should be done without dragging the name of my mother. She said she would end her term in 2010 and the Constitution does not allow a second term,” the presidential son said.
The Villafuerte resolution would still have to pass through the House committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, who sponsored and endorsed the Nograles resolution for plenary debate.
But Senator Joker Arroyo rejected the House proposal, warning that it was merely a cover for changes in the country’s political structure.
Senator Loren Legarda said the proposed amendment to allow foreigners to own lands, supposedly intended to attract foreign investments, is “a mere trial balloon.”
“If it passes, I am certain that they would then introduce another amendment that would extend the term of the administration beyond 2010,” she said.
Legarda noted that the House speaker floated the idea of approving amendments to the Constitution as if they were ordinary bills after the resolution to convene Congress into a constituent assembly has failed to prosper.
Arroyo said there have been repeated instances when constitutional provisions banning foreigners from owning lands and from exploiting natural resources and operating public utilities have been circumvented through acts of the executive branch and the courts.
But presidential aspirant Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. yesterday said he would prefer a Constitutional Convention rather than the Consa in restructuring the country’s political system.
“I am announcing now that if even I’m elected I will advocate Congress to pass a law immediately convening a Constitutional Convention. I believe that I would like some sort of restructuring of political system and our political structure. Before I was thinking about a parliamentary system but I think the Filipinos will not accept a leader of their country that they do not directly vote for. So I really feel that a presidential unicameral system is the way to go,” Teodoro said.
He pinpointed out that if the Constitution has to be amended or maybe changed, there should also be some changes in the economic provisions. “This is to give more economic liberties and certainties to people who legitimately work for their gains. There should be a balanced policy on land ownership in certain industries particularly in tourism,” Teodoro said. –Christine F. Herrera, Roy Pelovello, Fel V. Maragay, Florante S. Solmerin, Manila Standard Today