Expert, lawmakers: Ideal scenario on Cha-cha is to meet jointly, vote separately

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — The House is drawing fast in calling for a constituent assembly, but senators are putting the brakes on it.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Thursday, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr., House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, and 1986 Constitutional Commission member Ed Garcia, all agreed on one thing: meet jointly, but vote separately.


Pimentel said, "The ideal really is to have one session where both Houses are jointly discussing the issues. And after that, they should vote separately."

He added if the 24 senators voted with the over 250 member of the House, they would be "overwhelmed by a tsunami."

Ed Garcia, one of the members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission said he also believed a separate voting is preferrable.

Under the the Constitution,  Congress is composed of  both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Castro said, "I think there is nothing definite on whether it will be constitutional convention or aonstitutional assembly. Because for us to amend the Constitution on the basis of a constituent assembly, it is necessary for the Senate to agree and join the House of Representatives as a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution."

Both chambers are preparing to tackle charter change, but don't see eye to eye on how to vote on the proposed amendments.

In an interview with CNN Philippines Thursday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he would want to talk to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and ask him to convince senators to agree not only to a joint session, but to a joint voting as well.

However, he said a date for the meeting has yet to be set.

Alvarez also expressed concern over Senator Ping Lacson' warning that senators who would attend the Lower House discussion would be expelled.

READ: Lacson wants to expel senators who attend House con-ass

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said no one objected to Lacson's proposal.

"Igagalang namin 'yun, 'yung kanilang minumungkahi. But hindi ko makita kung anong ground ng [We will respect their sggesion. But I do not see the grounds for] expulsion because this is a constitutional process," he said.

Charter change, or Cha-cha, is a means of revising the Constitution via two modes: a Constitutional assembly (con-ass) or a Constitutional convention (con-con).

A constituent assembly is a mode of changing the Constitution, where both Houses of Congress decide on proposed revisions which are then presented in a plebiscite.

A constitutional convention is a separate gathering of duly elected delegates for the purpose of revising the Constitution which is then voted upon by the people.