Surprise, surprise! Lawyer Oliver Lozano has just filed a case with the Supreme Court of the Philippines (SCoRP) over House Resolution 1109. In a taxpayer suit, he states that,
“The railroaded HR 1109 is unconstitutional or bogus for deviation from the prescribed procedures to amend the Constitution by excluding the Senate of the Philippines from the complete process of proposing amendments to the Constitution and for lack of thorough debates and consultations.”
The garbled heart of the assailed House Resolution No. 1109 approved just last night in a familiar marathon session states:
In effect all H.Res.1109 does is express the sense of the House that the Congress ought to convene into a Constituent Assembly and adopt some Rules for proposing changes to the charter.
“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BE CONVENED FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROPOSING AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION UPON A VOTE OF THREE-FOURTHS OF ALL ITS MEMBERS THAT UPON ITS BEING CONVENED SHALL ADOPT ITS RULES OF PROCEDURES THAT SHALL GOVERN ITS PROCEEDINGS.”
Indeed, the House leadership has said it would forward H.Res.1109 to the Senate for its approval and adoption, and the possible promulgation of a Joint and Concurrent Resolution convening the Congress into a Constituent Assembly.
TRULY, the hardest thing for human beings to see, is what is right in front of their eyes. I must thank Fr. Joaquin Bernas for the title of this post, since it is a direct quotation of something he just said to Tony Velasquez on the early evening news. Fr. Bernas could not have produced a more pertinent and succinct translation of the controversial 1987 provision which states
ART. 17 Sec. 1. Any amendment to or revision of this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three fourths of all its Members.
It ought to be obvious, though it is not to most, that because the Congress can propose amendments or revisions right now, it is in fact already convened as a Constituent Assembly. Moreover the present House and Senate Rules merely stipulate that any such proposed amendment or revision undergoes the normal process of passing legislation, i.e., with both House and Senate approving the same using a three fourths majority rule, as required by the Constitution.
Of course, for a mere House Resolution to be disdainfully silly and superfluous does not make it unconstitutional. Indeed it does not appear that Oliver Lozano's suit can prosper and will probably meet the same fate as that of an almost identical suit by Rep. Adam Relson Jala which the Supreme Court dismissed as premature last October saying:
The Supreme Court recently dismissed on the ground of prematurity a petition filed by a member of the House of Representatives urging the Court to direct the House to validate joint voting of the members of the Congress, acting as a constituent assembly, in adopting amendments to or revision of the Constitution.WILL LOZANO'S SUIT MEET THE SAME FATE?
In a one-page minute resolution, the Court En Banc dismissed the petition for certiorari, prohibition, and/or mandamus filed by Congressman Adam Relson L. Jala of the 3rd District of Bohol against the House of Representatives, challenging the constitutionality of the Rule XX, Section 140 of the Rules of the House of Representatives which deals with the procedure to be followed by the House as regards proposals to amend or revise the Constitution.
On August 13, 2008, Jala has filed House Resolution No. 730 “TO CONSTITUTE THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES INTO A CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF DRAFTING AND PROPOSING AMENDMENTS TO, OR REVISION OF, THE 1987 CONSTITUTION PARTICULARLY TO ESTABLISH A UNICAMERAL CONGRESS.” The Resolution underwent first reading on August 26, 2008 in accordance with the foregoing House Rules. Jala contended that the adoption of the rules and the filing of the resolution fulfilled the requisites for the ripeness and maturity of his petition.
In his petition, Jala also alleged that the assailed provision of the House Rules, which states that “the adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the Constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills,” is violative of the Constitution as the provision requires three-fourths (3/4) votes of all the members of the Congress, voting separately.
Jala maintained that the plain language of the Constitution “only requires three-fourths vote of all the Members of the Congress to adopt the said proposals or revisions as a constituent assembly. This means that the Constitution simply requires a JOINT VOTING.”
Jala contended in acting as a constituent assembly, the bicameral nature of the legislature would no longer apply because it would not be exercising its ordinary legislative powers anymore. He added that to interpret the constitutional provision on amendments and revisions in the context of a bicameral body would be unwarranted, as the power to act as a constituent assembly is a constitutional grant and, as such, “must be strictly construed in accordance with the constitutional provision granting such power and may not be interpreted using principles outside the scope of the constitutional provision itself."Jala therefore prayed that Rule XX, Section 140 of the Rules of the House of Representatives adopted on November 20, 2007 be declared unconstitutional, and that “the Court issue an order directing the House of Representatives that House Resolution No. 730 proceed under Article XVII of the Constitution, validating joint voting in adopting resolutions proposing amendments to or revisions of the Constitution.” (Min. Res. GR No. 184426 , Jala v. House of Representatives, October 7, 2008)
Most likely it will. Until a number of Members of Congress, equalling three fourths or more of the 299 that the SCoRP decided is contained within the Congress (Banat v. Comelec) actually propose a revision or amendment without both House and Senate concurring separately, I do not see anyone committing or proposing to commit a violation of the Constitution.
Moreover, SCORP cannot rule on a hypothetical set of Rules not yet specified or adopted by a hypothetical Constituent Assembly that has not yet been established by the Congress, has not been convened, and may never be. And is not in the present Budget for funding.
Indeed, the same Rules of the House of Representatives that Jala sought to invalidate as unconstitutional, are plainly in compliance with the Constitution and have been duly adopted by the House and Senate, voting separately as every Bicameral Legislature does.
I predict another SCORP Minute Resolution dismissing the latest Oliver Lozano gimick-suit for PREMATURITY.