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Kahit pa sabihan ni Duterte! No Cha-cha railroading under Sotto

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by Xave Gregorio

The bid to change the Constitution would not be railroaded in the Senate, even if President Rodrigo Duterte requests for it to be prioritized, Senate President Tito Sotto assured.

“If the President requests, na unahin ‘yung Cha-cha (Charter change) siguradong ite-take up namin ‘yun. But we cannot guarantee na mabilis ang passage dito sa Senado. Alam mo naman sa Senado, we really have to scrutinize,” Sotto said Wednesday (June 13) in an interview with Senate reporters.

Compared to the House, the Senate is way behind the process of proposing to revise the Constitution, with opposition Senator Kiko Pangilinan’s committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes not yet submitting a report on the hearings it conducted on Cha-cha.

Duterte and his allies in Congress are batting for a constituent assembly (ConAss) to change the Constitution, instead of a constitutional convention (ConCon), which they say would be more expensive as it would require elections of new representatives who would propose amendments to the Charter.

In a ConAss, members of Congress would propose and vote on amendments to the Constitution, while a ConCon would be composed of delegates voted by the people for the sole purpose of proposing and voting on amendments to the Charter.

However, the House and the Senate still do not agree on how they would vote in a ConAss, with the upper chamber insisting that they should vote separately in such a scenario.

Sotto told reporters that changing the Constitution through ConAss would only pass in the Senate only if it would be done through separate voting.

“ConAss if voting separately, may pagasa sa Senado. Kung voting separately may pagasa sa Senado,” he said.

The Senate President said his colleagues in the chamber are leaning towards calling for a ConCon, or his proposal for a “hybrid” ConCon.

“I have a hybrid proposal na 12 senators, 12 congressmen, 12 nominees by the President, 12 nominees from the civil society or the different sectors like the academe, and so on,” Sotto revealed.

“Tingin ko ito ang solusyon, sabi ko. ‘Pag hindi pwedeng, mahal ang ConCon, it’s like creating a new Congress, ‘yung ConCon, tapos ayaw ng tao sa ConAss, so hybrid,” he said.

In January, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno has suggested a hybrid ConCon at a Senate inquiry, which would be composed of elected and appointed delegates, who would propose and vote on amendments to the Constitution, which would be presented to the people for ratification.