POSTSCRIPT / June 7 2009 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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No need to panic on Cha-cha reso

NET WORTH: I asked Makati Mayor Jojo Binay in a forum yesterday his net worth and his prompt reply was P12 million. What was your net worth when you were appointed officer-in-charge by President Cory Aquino in 1986, I followed up, and he said P2 million.

An aide jumped in to volunteer that Jojo’s net worth was actually P42 million. Whatever, just remember the figures for future reference.

The same questions must be answered by all others running for president.

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VIVA VOCE: Congressmen bellowed a “yea” voice vote Wednesday night to pass Resolution 1109 to convene the Congress into a Constituent Assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Some of the congressmen may have thought that the faceless viva voce hid them from Cha-cha opponents planning to “punish” them. But they are still visible targets, because their signatures appeared on the document even before the vote.

Those who joined the “yeas” for a reported P20-million inducement even if they actually abhorred the Con-Ass idea need not worry. Amending or revising the Constitution is still several “blocks” away and is not likely to prosper anyway.

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OBSTACLES: Among the serious stumbling blocks:

1. The Senate. The consensus here is against the rewriting of the Constitution before the May 2010 elections. A few senators salivating for pork may attend a House-sponsored Cha-cha banquet, but they are not the Senate.

2. The Supreme Court. Despite the overwhelming number of Arroyo appointees in the SC, the Court may not want to sully its credibility by allowing Charter change sponsored by only half-a-Congress.

3. The Mass Media. Now and then, some of us in media stray from the narrow path, but by and large there is a principled objection among us to amending or revising the Constitution before 2010.

4. The People. Any amendment by Con-Ass will be valid only if ratified by a majority vote in a plebiscite held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after its approval by the Congress. Surveys have shown widespread opposition.

5. The Calendar. All the steps toward amendment or revision will be taken within a rigid time frame. Time for Cha-cha is running out, especially with the May 2010 elections just 11 months away.

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SENATE NEEDED: If you think it might be constitutionally feasible for the House to convene a Con-Ass without the Senate, read these comments of Dean Artemio G. Tuquero of the MLQ School of Law:

“On the matter of amending the Constitution, there is a significant difference between the 1935 and the 1987 Constitutions.

“Section 1, Article XV, of the 1935 Constitution reads:

“ ‘The Congress in joint session assembled, by a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives voting separately, may propose amendments to this Constitution or call a convention for the purpose. xxx.’

“The 1987 Constitution, on the other hand, simply states:

“ ‘Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention.’ (Sec. 1, Art. XVII)

“It is clear that while the 1935 Constitution requires Congress to sit in joint session in exercising its constituent power, the present Constitution does not. Congress being a bicameral body composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, any proposal to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution may emanate from either House in the form of a resolution, which undergoes the same process as in the passage of a bill, except that approval thereof requires the vote of at least three-fourths of all its Members. The proposal is then sent to the other House for its own consideration, following the same process.

“The use of the phrase ‘voting separately’ is imperative under the 1935 Constitution because Congress, in proposing amendments thereto, is required to sit in joint session, but it would be a superfluity under the present Constitution because such proposal may emanate from either House upon the initiative of any Member thereof.

“Whenever the Constitution requires Congress to hold a joint session in exercising a specific power, it invariably provides the manner by which the voting is held. For instance, under Section 23[1], Article VI, of the 1987 Constitution, ‘The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war.’ And, in relation to the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, it is provided, among others, that ‘The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President.’ (Sec. 18, Art. VII)

“The absence of the phrases ‘in joint session assembled’ and ‘voting separately’ in Section 1, Article XVII, of the 1987 Constitution implies that Congress may exercise its constituent power following the normal procedure of discharging its function as a legislative body, i.e. both Houses sitting and voting separately.

“The power to amend the Constitution is vested in the Congress, not in either House thereof. Hence, not even a unanimous vote of all the members of the House would be enough to propose an amendment to, or revision of, the 1987 Constitution. The concurrence of the Senate, by a vote of three-fourths of all its members, is required to consider such proposal as an act of the Congress.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 7, 2009)

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