“This Congress is a joke. An important matter as amendments to the Constitution was railroaded, interpellations were abruptly stopped, and the period of debate disregarded.”
MANILA — In an abrupt plenary session, the House of Representatives adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 9, which allows Congress to convene as a constituent assembly to discuss amendments to the Constitution.
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao was interpellating when Deputy Majority Floor Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc suddenly moved for the termination of the period of interpellation and debate. Casilao was then questioning the appropriateness of using the constituent assembly as a method of amending the Constitution, especially as to the argument that it is the most expeditious and least costly of all methods.
Despite strong opposition, they proceeded to divide the house and Casilao had to refrain from interpellating. After the roll call was called, Alvarez proposed to vote for the adoption of the resolution. With a slight difference in the volume of voices, presiding officer Rep. Gwen Garcia announced that the ‘ayes’ had it.
“This Congress is a joke. An important matter as amendments to the Constitution was railroaded, interpellations were abruptly stopped, and the period of debate disregarded. There were still many representatives who wanted to interpellate when the process was abruptly ended and the House leadership decided to call for a vote to be able to railroad the adoption of the resolution,” Act Teachers Partylist Representative Antonio Tinio said during the press conference of the Makabayan bloc shortly after session was adjourned.
Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago also criticized the House leadership’s decision to proceed with the amendment through a constituent assembly.
“It cannot be denied that the decision of Congress to convene as a constituent assembly is only a means for them to expedite charter change. If in the initial process of the amendments, we have already been deprived of the right to voice out our opinions and questions, how can we expect them to consider the interests of the common Filipino in amending the Constitution,” she said.
Recently, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez vowed to have the new Constitution ready by May 2018 for ratification.
The proposed Constitution – which constitutes a federal government, removes the position of the vice president, consolidates power in the executive and a few other local elites who will lead the regional governments, opens up the economy to 100 percent ownership of foreign corporations and individuals, and dilutes the people’s struggle – has been criticized by several progressive groups and lawmakers.
“With Con-Ass now adopted by the House, the stage is set for discussions for charter change proposals that will only lead to further concentration of political power in the hands of the chief executive, total sellout of the Philippine economy, and subversion of people’s democratic rights. The country moves closer to a pro-foreign, anti-people Duterte dictatorship,” Gabriela Women’s Partylist said in a statement.
On the transitory provision providing the president to have legislative powers after Congress is dissolved following the ratification of the new Constitution and before the new Federal Congress is convened, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) Secretary General Cristina Palabay called everyone to be reminded of the Marcos dictatorship.
“There is an instance in our history where legislative powers were handed to the executive. That period proved to be a disaster, as martial law under Marcos gave rise to laws, decrees, and regulations that curtailed people’s rights. Duterte, a self-confessed and crazed fan of Marcos, is expected to follow a similar path towards full-blown fascism and dictatorship. Checks and balances in government will be removed, leaving a chorus of inutile and power-hungry crocodiles controlling our affairs while restricting forms of dissent,” she said.
Gabriela Women’s Partylist observed, “This latest development proves that the main arena of struggle is not inside the halls of Congress but in the parliament of the streets.”
“The Deputy Majority Floor Leader spoke the truth: ‘If there is a will, there is a way.’ True enough, there is a way for them to expedite the proceedings. But there is also a way for the people, the masses, to fight against this outright fascist and tyrannical dictatorship of President Rodrigo Duterte. In the coming days, we, members of the Makabayan bloc, promise to stand with the people in opposing anti-people provisions in the proposed amendments of the Constitution, and in exposing the power play and ulterior motive of centralizing power in the hands of one dictator,” Elago said.
Elago noted that since last year, Duterte has already unfolded himself to be a full-blown dictator, even proudly admitting it in front of mass media. “Charter change will give him the power that Marcos once had — legislative, military, and economic powers that will ensure the death not only of democracy but also of the people. There has never been a more imperative moment in history for the people, especially the youth, to stand bravely, against a madman,” the youth legislator ended.