Senate mulls need for Cha-Cha talks

To change or not to change? The question persists in a Senate hearing on constitutional amendments.

The Senate's position on amending or revising the 1987 Constitution remains unclear as the country’s top legal experts appear apparently divided on the proposition. In a Committee on Constitutional Amendments hearing presided by committee chairperson and Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, former constitutional commission members and policy experts expressed differing opinions on whether the Charter change should be pursued and, in such scenario, what amendments should be prioritized, and what mode should be taken.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.,a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, opined that the “[the Constitution] must be honored, protected and defended until its provisions or some of it are proven to be ineffective, inadequate, insufficient or even irrelevant after all genuine and patriotic efforts have been tried, exerted and pursued through and by legislative efforts or acts of Government to comply with [its] mandates or commands.” Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod expressed the same, albeit agreeing on some “reform refinements” like block voting for the President and Vice-President and the removal of the quasi-judicial function of the Comelec.

On the other hand, ex-Finance Secretary Gary Teves and past SC Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna stressed the need to amend certain economic provisions in the Constitution. Former SC Associate Justice Antonio Nachura added that the political party system should be revisited, among other structural amendments.

Despite the mixed opinions, the resource persons generally agreed that charter change would be better coursed through a constitutional convention than a constitutional assembly. They were also of the same view that in the event of the latter, the two chambers of the Congress should vote separately.

In his concluding statement, Senator Drilon said the Committee will deliberate on the need to conduct further hearings on the matter. Included in the meeting’s agenda were Senate Bill No. 128 by Senator Miguel Zubiri, Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 by Senator Richard Gordon, Senate Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 by Senator Drilon, and Senate Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 by Senator Ralph Recto.

Photo courtesy of the Senate of the Philippines