Senate prioritizes Cha-cha as it resumes session Monday

MANILA -- The Senate is expected to prioritize proposed bills on amendments of the 1987 Constitution as it resumes its session on Monday (January 15).

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said in a statement, that to date, three bills on the issue had been filed in the Senate by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Richard Gordon and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

These bills are set to be discussed in a hearing by the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes on Wednesday (January 17).

Pimentel earlier said that he wanted both houses of Congress to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) as a way of amending the 1987 Constitution "to pave the way for the shift to federalism."

However, some senators including those belonging to the minority bloc and Senator Grace Poe think that constitutional convention (con-con) is still the better path to take in amending the Constitution.

Should the Senate collectively agree on a con-ass, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said that all senators agree on voting separately and not jointly.

Sotto Friday said that the 1987 Constitution itself does not mention that the Congress should take a joint vote on any amendments to the charter except on the declaration of martial law.

Despite concerns raised by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon that the statements of House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez attacking the Senate for being a slow congress would weaken and abolish the upper chamber, Pimentel assured that it was not Alvarez's intention.

He shrugged off Alvarez's attacks against the Senate saying it was merely his right to free expression.

Alvarez has repeatedly pressured the Senate into passing the death penalty bill. However, the Senate has yet to tackle the measure in a plenary session or include it in its priorities. Moreover, Pimentel said that it was not the obligation of the Senate to pass all measures already passed by the House of Representaties.

He was confident that Alvarez's attacks would not affect the Senate's net satisfaction rating which currently remained as the top public institution Filipinos are most satisfied with, with a "very good" +56 rating, according to the recent Social Weathers Station (SWS) Fourth Quarter 2017 survey.

Aside from charter change, Pimentel said that other priority bills include the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law, the proposed National ID System Act and the proposed Universal Healthcare for All Filipinos Act.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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