June 17, 2024

The Insider News

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Barbers: Senate manifesto vs PI baseless, irrational

A SENIOR House leader today said the Senate manifesto condemning the people’s initiative (PI) aimed to amend the 1987 Constitution and using the Lower House as an excuse to impede Constitutional amendments is baseless and irrational.

Speaking on behalf of some House members who support the PI, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said some Senators’ allegations that the goal of PI is to make it “easier to revise the Constitution by eliminating the Senate from the equation” is an unfounded and deceptive attribution to the House.  

“The manifesto is apparently portraying a demonized image on the supporters of the PI,” the solon from Mindanao said.   

Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said the attributed goal is not only speculative but groundless in the light of the express and clear language of the Constitution that repeatedly states vote by “all” members of Congress without distinction between Senate and House of Representative in proposing charter amendment.

“The plain language of the Constitution needs no interpretation, but some quarters tried to create a confusion that the term “all” members of Congress should be understood to mean separate votes of the Senate and of the House of Representatives,” he said. 

Barbers underscored that supporters of the PI in the House differ with the “voting separately” interpretation, and the Senate must respect with courtesy and candor the proponents of the said interpretation. 

“It is thus a matter of differing opinion on the matter which has been lingering for several decades and for the past several administrations. The Senate should also respect with dignity the proponents of opposite interpretation, and not demonizing them to a level that is tantamount to hindering democratic freedom of expression,” he stressed.  

The mode of amendment, Barbers said, is not without express constitutional imprimatur. The Constitution, he said allows PI as an alternative mode of pursuing amendment which is available to anybody, including the individual members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the people in the executive branch, and finally the ordinary Filipino citizen. 

“The proponents of the “voting separately” idea may have pursued the PI or any other means to address the unresolved issue between voting separately or voting jointly. Over the years, no concrete steps had been done to address this issue. What had happened in the past is that the proponents simply go out to the public and express their respective positions or interpretations. That is all, and the divisive issue remains and has become a stumbling block to perceive progress and development of the country.  In the meantime, the Filipino people are left to suffer in quandary,” Barbers said.   

The proponents of PI, he said, took the courage to break the impasse not for self-interest but to pursue the interest of the Filipino people. “They hope that the Senate will not be a stumbling block to this effect.  After all, whatever would be the outcome of the People’s Initiative, it is the voice of the Filipino people who will finally decide in the plebiscite.”

“Some Senators feign support for Cha-Cha but exploit every opportunity to halt it. They don’t want to carry it out via ConCon, via ConAss and now with the People’s Initiative. And everybody can clearly see what this means. They don’t want to get out of their ‘comfort zones.’ This has been their modus operandi since 1987,” Barbers said.

“If the Senators would not want to adopt any mode to change the Charter, we have no recourse but to exercise our right as Filipino citizens and support our people’s clamor to amend the Constitution. And so, I urge Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez to grant us the option to support the People’s Initiative,” he added.

“The real reason (in opposing Charter change) is to perpetuate a Constitution that favors only the oligarchs, and most importantly for the senators, one that grants them undue political longevity.”

Under the 1987 Constitution, Senators are the only elected officials allowed a continued term of 12 years and retain their post mid-term despite suffering a defeat in a presidential or vice-presidential race.