Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Even If Unanimous, a House Resolution is not an Act of The Congress

I believe Rep. Butch Pichay when he says that he and Speaker Jose de Venecia have 195 Congressmen willing to back a switch to a Unicameral Parliament under the "Con-Ass" mode of chacha. He says he already has the House Resolution proposing the change all ready to go. So why don't they?

Pichay says they are standing on firm ground with the Constitution:
Article XVII - Amendments Or Revisions - Section 1.

Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or

(2) A constitutional convention.
Since they have the numbers WHY NOT file the threatened House Resolution proposing a revision of the Constitution and submit it to the Comelec for Plebiscite to be synchronized with the 2007 Midterm Elections? (There are 236 House Members and 23 Senate Members there are a total of 259 Members of Congress. The smallest whole number that just exceeds three-fourths of 259 is 195, said to be the Magic Number for Unicameral Con-Ass.)

Why don't the Con-Ass proponents just file a House Resolution with Comelec if they "have the numbers" (which I believe they do)?

I think it is because even if a House Resolution proposing amendments to or revision of the charter were to be signed unanimously by ALL the Members of the Lower House, it would only still add up to an ACT of the Lower House, not an ACT of the Congress.

Without looking at the substance at all, it is therefore obvious that a House Resolution is insufficient in form to qualify as an Act of The Congress.

That is why there has been no House Resolution filed with Comelec for the purpose of proposing any amendment to or revision of the Constitution. They don't want an historic Supreme Court ruling striking down the House as an impostor of The Congress and their House Resolution as woefully insufficient in form and thus failing the Constitution's most direct and simple demand that any amendment to or revision of the Constitution may be proposed by The Congress.

It is not "the three fourths of all the Members of Congress" that propose amendments or revision, it is The Congress that does so. One thing for sure, even if unanimous, a House Resolution is not an Act of The Congress. And it is certainly not the Lower House of Representatives that the Constitution empowers to amend or revise it.

Postscript on P.I.

Lawyer Marichu Lambino is the newest BLAWGER in my Blogroll. (via MLQ3)

Just in time too -- as she weighs right in on that beguiling Supreme Court Minute Resolution denying the Sigaw ng Bayan Petition with finality but ending with the following statement:
Ten (10) Members of the Court reiterate their position, as shown by their various opinions already given when the Decision herein was promulgated, that Republic Act No. 6735 is sufficient and adequate to amend the Constitution thru a people's initiative."
Like a chicken bone flung out from the sorry remains of some fowl's carcass for the dogs to chew on and possibly choke on, this little morsel has been hungrily seized upon by Raul Lambino and Butch Pichay, who are determined to read into it a glimmer of hope, a hint of possible victory. But it is of as much consequence as if the Court had solemnly declared: "On the day before yesterday, the Sun rose in the East and set in the West."

After all, what is a "Reiteration" by Ten (10) Members of the Court of certain things they said in various concurring and dissenting opinions recently? Is it a Decision or a Resolution of the Court? No. Is it a Reversal of any previous Decision or Resolution of the Court? No.

A vacillation or inconsistency perhaps, as Butch Pichay claims? Maybe. It could be seen as an admission of embarrassment over that ruling in Santiago vs. Comelec (1997) which found Republic Act No. 6735 "inadequate" to implement people's initiatives, but not "unconstitutional" or the more definite "insufficient in form and substance." Well par for the course for the Court that invented "constructive resignation" and made a euphemism for coup d'etat ("withdrawal of support") an accepted Principle of Regime Change (just get the Supreme Court Chief Justice to swear you in!)

Anyway, Welcome to the local scene online, Marichu Lambino! Move over Ed Lacierda, Fred Pamaos, Connie Veneracion. There's a new Blawger in town.


Voting Separately or Voting Jointly?

It has been publicly admitted by the Founding Father Joaquin Bernas, S.J., that the framers of the 1987 should really have put one of the two phrases "voting separately" or "voting jointly" into the provision that empowers The Congress to propose any amendment to or revision of the Constitution--that there is an unavoidable ambiguity in the provision that needs disambiguating (a Wiki word).

But WHO can actually settle this issue? Does the nation have to go through another submission to Comelec followed by a Supreme Court ruling to do so? That would be par for the course around here, which is to say, insane. But there is actually a simpler way...

The Congress itself can settle the issue by a simple Act of the Congress adopting the Rules of the Congress when it invokes Article XVII Sec.1(1) to propose amendments or revisions of the Charter.

Of course, such Rules can only be adopted in the usual manner of The Congress, by a simple majority of both Houses of the Congress (i.e., voting separately!).


Eric said...

I'm not sure what Lambino and company are happy about. It still won't allow them to change the government through People's Initiative, which is limited to amendments, not revisions, which the change of government is. Do they think that they can get it reversed next year?

Rizalist said...

I think they are just taking whatever consuelo bobo there is just to save face. It's not serious and Marichu Lambino had it right: the statement does not affect the Carpio decision since it did not rely on the precedent to find the initiative insufficient in form.

Actually, the same thing could be said about the issue of the substance being a "revision." The ruling that it WAS revision was not necessary after the court had already found the insufficiency in form.

My own definition of the two terms is:
An amendment is any change to the Constitution.

A revision is any change of Constitution.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

You are right DJB, the act of the house of representatives voting to amend the constitution does not qualify as an act of the whole Congress which is composed composed of two houses.

De Venecia is wrong to think that his house can vote separately and make it be accepted as an action of the CONGRESS. It will only be an action of his house no matter how you look at it. Is Malacanang counting on the courts to back it up perhaps. Will they really get those 197? I wonder, with the elections in the background?

Eric said...

So, if Lambino and company want to use 6735 as the basis of their people's initiative, they'll have to file a petition before the Court to get an official ruling? Sorry, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not certain.

BFR, I don't think the Supreme Court will back up de Venecia and the House in this case. The House is wasting its time unless they accept that the Senate should vote separately.

You know, if the House Representatives poured the passion they're infusing into Charter Change, and simply worked for the better of the Filipino people, the country would be much better off.

ricelander said...

I would love, of course, to see JDV and company try their luck to amuse myself. I derive my pleasure from watching people, normally sane and sensible, making atrocious mockery of themselves and not knowing it, in the name of some noble aim..., whatever. Perverse, don't you think? They can always go to the nearest church, plead guilty to fraud or deception, but may in His everlasting omniscience God appreciate that the inspiration sprung from generous and virtuous hearts.

domingo said...

ARTICLE XV (Amendments) of the 1935 Constitution:

"Section 1. The Congress in joint session assembled, by a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives voting separately, may propose amendments to this Constitution or call a convention for that purpose. Such amendments shall be valid as part of this Constitution when approved by a majority of the votes cast at an election at which the amendments are submitted to the people for their ratification."

If only “amendments” to the 1935 Constitution were allowed under this provision, upon what authority did the framers of the 1973 Constitution rely on to institute a drastic “revision” of the 1935 version by proposing a shift from presidential to parliamentary?

Anyway, after reading Jutice Puno’s dissent, I recommend you read “The Consent of the Governed: Constitutional Amendment Outside Article V,” 94 Colum. L. Rev. 457 (1994) by Akhil Reed Amar (PDF file) at:

Rizalist said...

My definitions:

An amendment is any change TO THE Constitution.

A revision is a change OF Constitution.

Under these defininitions, we have had the following revisions:
Malolos 1899 (original)
1935 Commonwealth
1973 Martial Law
1986 Cory
1987 Freedom Constitution

I don't consider a shift to parliamentary from presidential to need a change OF Constitution just a massive change TO it.

I don't think the authority to adopt a revision OF Constitution necessarily resides in the Constitution that is about to be replaced!

Since ratification is a POLITICAL act, there is no guarantee that any NEW Constitution will respect anything in the OLD Constitution.

Thus it was Marcos autocracy that forced us to adopt the 1973 Constitution. Not anything in the 1935!

domingo said...

Rizalist, your argument is basically what Akhil Reed Amar advocates in his paper, "The Consent of the Governed," I recommend you read (the url is in my earlier post), an advocacy, by the way, I also support.

Rizalist said...

thanks for the link domingo, i will make it a point to read mr amar's paper.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Pray tell, DJB, what's in Cha-Cha for Gloria? It is now personal with her. Now, if it comes to a vote on it, people will not vote for or against Cha-Cha but rather FOR OR AGAINST GLORIA.

I definitely dislike some portions of this Constitution but I also definitely don't want to change it under this President. Saka na lang pag wala na siya.