House to clip Senate powers

Reference:
Baldo, G. and Rosales A.M. (2018, January 22). House to clip Senate powers. The Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor. Retrieved January 22, 2018 from http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/house-to-clip-senate-powers

House to clip Senate powers
Written by Gerry Baldo and Angie M. Rosales
Monday, 22 January 2018 

SENATE TO BE REDUCED TO REVIEWING TREATIES, APPOINTEES

The House is moving to clip the Senate’s power of the purse and reduce its legislative load, based on the proposed provisions under a Federal Constitution, Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso said.

Under the proposed provisions, the power to legislate and to allocate funds for the national budget should be left to the House of Representatives alone.

The House and the Senate are currently engaged in a bitter feud over the manner of voting, whether it should be done jointly or separately, under a constituent assembly. Veloso, a former Court of Appeals (CA) associate justice, said senators under the proposed federal government should just focus on confirming Cabinet appointees and ratifying treaties to avoid duplicating functions under the federal system of government.

Veloso was the head of one of the four subcommittees of the House committee on constitutional amendments tasked to scrutinize the proposed amendments of Articles 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 of the Constitution.

Veloso also criticized the Senate for its lack of political personalities like the late Senate President Jovito Salonga, the late Sen. Claro M.Recto, the late former Vice Preident Arturo “Turing” Tolentino, and the late Sen. Jose “Pepe” Diokno.

“Look, who among the senators there have the stature of Recto, Tolentino, Diokno, Salonga,” Veloso pointed out.
Veloso said a separate proposal would have the new federal government setting up a unicameral Congress where the Senate will no longer exist to avoid duplication of functions and save public resources.

“Well at the end of the day, that is expensive (bicameral Congress) (I) will suggest to abolish the Senate. That will no longer be our initiative. It will be the people themselves who will propose that,” said Veloso.
The Leyte lawmaker noted that the House has passed so many laws which are now pending in the Senate.

He insisted that Congress should vote jointly in approving the proposed amendments to the Constitution, adding senators who will not join the con-ass initiative should be expelled instead.

“We are going to do it alone. The Constitution did not say that the Senators or the members of the Lower House should always be present.Let’s put it the other way, for example, they initiate a constitutional revision and we don’t agree, is it possible for us to boycott?,” he explained.

“They should be expelled (senators who will not participate in Con-Ass). Because that constitutes disorderly behavior,” said Veloso.

”They should read the Constitution. Article 6, Paragraph 3. It’s only by disorderly behavior that you can expel a member of Congress, either in the Senate or House. And intimidation and blackmail are disorderly behaviors,” he added.

Lacson sees House plot

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ threats against senators brought to light an apparent clandestine move to have one or two upper chamber members attend the plenary session in the lower house and eventually declare it a joint proceeding, possibly to railroad the proposed charter change (Cha-cha), Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

He added the senators have been suspecting the possibility of the House attempting to outwit the upper chamber in circumventing the issue on Congress convening and voting jointly on cha-cha even when there’s no explicit provision on this matter.

Senators are of the position that the provision in the 1987 Constitution on the matter of voting jointly in joint session remains vague and they have yet to hear an opinion contradicting their position that the Senate and the House of Representatives should vote separately on proposed amendments.

“If you read between the lines of his statements, our suspicions are right all this time that one or two senators will be invited to attend the joint session,” he said.

“That’s way in our caucus last Tuesday I proposed a gentleman’s agreement that there would be no senatord to attend the House session without getting permission from the Senate,” he added.

The senator, given that there was no opposition or objection coming from his colleagues in the majority and minority blocs, said he went further and suggested in jest, though there was seriousness in his tone, to suggest the expulsion of any member who will commit a breach in their so-called gentleman’s agreement.

Lacson said Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV initially suggested that the penalty should be censure but he pointed out that it’s too light to be considered for such kind of an offense which could be seen as a betrayal or act of treachery of the Senate which is a grave offense and has a corresponding punishment of dismissal by a vote of two-thirds of the senators.

As of now, senators remain unclear whether there’s unanimity among them on the issue on cha-cha, whether they are for or against any moves to amend the Constitution, although individually, some have already expressed their position on this matter.

Lacson said whether his bill proposing to convene the Senate into a constituent assembly (Con-Ass), allowing the upper chamber to begin work to amend the provisions of the Constitution and reconcile their version with the House of Representatives, will be adopted in the plenary, they will rally against it.

“But if the committee (on constitutional amendments and revision of codes) will report out (recommending) con-con (constitutional convention), then we will opt for con-con,” he said.

“If the House (will insist on) con-ass there would be no agreement, cha-cha will not happen,” he said.
“We are firm when it comes to that issue,” Lacson said in reference to the issue on the two Houses voting separately on cha-cha.

The senator urged Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, along with the majority and minority leaders of the two Houses to thresh out the differences of the two Houses on the issue surrounding Cha-cha.

Cha-cha is as good as dead, such is likely to be the end all of the debate between and among Congress members, said Lacson.

Even Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel himself is against the idea of voting jointly.

In holding a joint session, it has to have the permission or approval of majority of members of the other chamber, or the Senate on this matter.

“What will be the personality of one senator even if he is the Senate president durig the session at the House for that assembly to be called a joint session? None, he does not have any personality at all because he does not have authorization from the Senate itself, as a body, as the upper chamber,” Pimentel said.

Cha-cha alternative offered

There’s no need to carry out Charter change (Cha-cha) to pave for the planned shift to federal form of government, Lacson added.

Lacson is considering of presenting on the floor, as an alternative measure, his pet bill which seeks to empower the local government units, his proposed Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) which he introduced in 2016.

Under the said bill, Lacson proposed to mandate the national government to download the funds to the LGUs and allow the local executives how they can develop their respective jurisdiction on their own and this is similar to the idea of federalism.

Lacson said that when he made a power point presentation to Cabinet Sec. Leoncio Evasco, the latter told him that President Duterte may be amenable to his recommendation.

The problem, however, is that there is no counterpart measure in the House of Representatives, he said.
If his bill will be approved by Congress and enacted into law, the provision of funds to LGUs would be separate to the IRA or internal revenue allotment, which mandates to have their 20 percent share to be used for development projects.

Published in Headlines

Published in Metro| The Daily Tribune – Without Fear or Favor

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