Nograles ready to face Cha-cha critics to end 'cycle of conflict'

June 3, 2009 1:31 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, June 4 — In the wake of the passage by the House of Representatives of Resolution 1109 which seeks to convene Congress into a Constituent assembly (Con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution, Speaker Prospero Nograles on Wednesday said he is ready to "face public scorn" for acting decisively on the measure just to be able to finally put an end to the perpetual conflict on the legal interpretation of how to amend the Charter.

"Even the best legal minds in our country today don't have a single legal position on how to amend the Constitution through Constituent assembly which is one of the modes of amending the Constitution. I'm prepared to bite the bullet and face public scorn if only to convince the Supreme Court that it should now step in and make a clear interpretation of this particular provision of our Constitution," he said.

Stressing that "this cycle of conflict and controversy over Cha-cha (Charter Change) should be put to rest once-and-for-all," Nograles expressed confidence that the House decision to adopt HR 1109 "would be proven right and will be beneficial for the country in the long term."

"When the majority coalition decided to act decisively on HR 1109, our eyes were focused on the future because we don't live just for today," the Speaker said as he lauded the courage and audacity of his coalition partners "for risking possible public scourge for something that is right."

"This is the essence of leadership. What is popular may not be the best of options. I have to lead and be assertive. But I have to be patient, too," he said.

Nograles said the passage of the Con-ass resolution "would pave the way to give the issue the correct public and legal forum to ventilate or redirect the true spirit of any constitutional provision."

He said that the provision in question stresses that when Congress acts under its constituent powers, "there should be parity between the individual members of the 24-member Senate and the individual members of the 250-plus members of the House of Representatives. Thus, each member of either chamber is just one vote on any Constitutional issue."

"The 24-member chamber without defined constituencies and elected at large should never be allowed to hold hostage a collective decision of the 250-member House elected under defined constituencies," he said.

"It is rare that we are able to revise or amend our fundamental law," Nograles noted, adding, "We cannot afford to waste our golden chances, and when we talk about the Constitution, we deal with our country's future."

For his part, House Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Arthur Defensor said the House has achieved its goal of adopting the resolution in the hope that it would be a "trigger mechanism" that would prod a group or an individual to bring it to the Supreme Court so the High Tribunal could resolve the issue of whether the two Chambers of Congress should vote jointly or separately.

He, however, said he is not certain if the adoption of HR 1109 is enough to trigger a justiciable controversy for the Supreme Court or if there was need for the actual convening of the assembly.

After the House passed the Con-ass resolution Tuesday night through a "viva voce" voting, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., one of the sponsors of the resolution, said the next step would be decided by the House committee on rules and by the House leadership.

Defensor, who is the chairman of the House rules committee, said the Speaker would likely consult with House leaders and Constitution experts on how to go about the resolution.

But should they decide to convene, he said that the Senate should have equal participation.

"For the Constituent assembly to be validly convened, majority of the House members and majority of the senators must attend. To do this, the Senate must also pass a similar resolution," he added. (PNA)

scs/LGI

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