Wanna Dance? The Cha-Cha, I mean | Malaya Business Insight

Baylon, J. B. (2018, January 29). Wanna Dance? The Cha-Cha, I mean. Malaya Business Insight. Retrieved February 19, 2018 from http://malaya.com.ph/business-news/opinion/wanna-dance-cha-cha-i-mean

Wanna Dance? The Cha-Cha, I mean
By Jose Bayani Baylon
January 29, 2018

FOR most of January many social media sites were abuzz about the efforts by legislators allied with President Duterte – the majority in both Houses, that is – to push for Charter Change and convert our unitary (or centralized) Republic into a Federal one. Of course there were other proposed provisions that made politically-active netizens hyper-sensitive as well, including changes to the Bill of Rights, to economic provisions, and even the issue of term extensions. There was, for example, talk that between the approval of a new Charter and its full-blown implementation was a “transition period” of ten years which would keep incumbents at their post for that long a period of time. (Oh – but this doesn’t include the Vice President whose office is to disappear under a new Constitution.)

Leading the charge was the House Speaker, one of the leaders of the PDP Laban, which has ironically become the KBL of the Duterte era. Ironical at least as far as the older elements in the PDP should be concerned for they (mostly the PDP “origs”) were staunch anti-Marcos leaders during the 1980s but who now are part of a party that has become similar to the party that kept their late nemesis in power. A step or two behind the Speaker was the Senate President. He has actually presided over a study group of legal experts who have drawn up a draft Charter that they intend to submit to Congress as soon as it were convened as a Constituent Assembly.

But that’s where some roadblocks to the plan have emerged.

Apparently under the scheme being hatched by the Speaker both Houses of Congress will sit as a Constituent Assembly voting together – with majorities of 2/3 or 3/4 of the whole body required depending on the matter to be decided. This arrangement effectively castrates the Senate with its 24 members who will be voting together with the over 220 members of the House. Naturally this scheme was opposed by Senators — even by members of the majority led by the Senate President — who insist that the Senate must be voting separately to maintain its status as a co-equal House of Congress. With Senators by nature far more “independent minded” than their Lower House counterparts this could mean a more difficult process to control if you were a Speaker – especially one with an agenda.

No wonder the Speaker announced that even without the Senate his House was proceeding solo as a Constituent Assembly. On Facebook I asked: “in what law school is it taught that the Lower House can proceed on its own?” but I never got a reply.

Not even my classmates from UP Law who are supportive of Cha-Cha could speak up in defense of the Speaker.

In a previous column I have made my own personal view known about Cha-Cha and that is that I am in favor of revisiting the 1987 Constitution in order to strength it. And if needed, that the way to do this was via a Constitutional Convention. I am totally opposed to the idea that our legislators sitting as a Constituent Assembly do the tinkering themselves – although it is a valid mode under the Constitution itself – and my reasoning is simple: if our legislators cannot be trusted to enact an Anti-Dynasty Law (which would clearly be against their interest) then how could we entrust to them the writing of a new Constitution – and expect them not use the opportunity to protect their interests in the process?

Anyway, have been born with two left feet I am not good on the dance floor. So I am not keen on dancing the Cha-Cha. But if push comes to shove let it be done by a Constitutional Convention so that the President who is pro-people can order Congress to focus on passing an anti-dynasty law.

With a super-majority that shouldn’t be too hard to do yes? And in keeping with what is taught in law schools!


Happy anniversary, MALAYA!

Category: Opinion Of The Day | Malaya Business Insight

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