Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net
MANILA — Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. has urged congressional leaders to sit down and privately settle their feud over the House of Representatives’ push for constitutional amendments, instead of quarreling before the public.
The veteran legislator appealed to House and Senate leaders to observe parliamentary courtesy, stressing that the differences in their opinions on the charter change initiative could have been avoided had the Senate first voted on the measure before announcing that it does not have the numbers to push for it.
“Nagkakaroon tuloy ng word war between the Senate President and the Speaker (Martin Romualdez) and (House Committee on Constitutional Amendments) Chairman Rufus (Rodriguez), minsan nakakahiya e,” he told Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers Friday on his radio program “Kape Kape Muna” aired over DWRB. “Dapat e veteran legislators kami, kung ano man ang pinagkakaiba ng opinyon, settle privately.”
Barzaga said the word war started when Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that the delay in the enforcement of the implementing guidelines of the three laws (1. Public Service Act; 2. Retail Trade Liberalization; 3. Foreign Investment Act) appeared to be caused by the Lower House’s push for rewriting the Constitution’s economic provisions.
Rodriguez has said Zubiri’s allegation was “unfair” to House members, especially the Speaker, who has taken exception to Zubiri’s allegations that the House railroaded the passage of the measures calling for a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).
“Hindi namin kasalanan ‘yun (delay in the enforcement of the implementing guidelines of the three laws),” Barzaga said. “Unfortunately now, masama kaagad ang insinuation ni Senate President Migz Zubiri kaya nag-reply na ang ating Speaker at si Chairman Rufus Rodriguez, kaya sinasabi namin kung minsan nakakahiya rin sa publiko. The heads of the chambers of the lawmaking body are quarelling before the public. The issuance of the implementing guidelines of the aforementioned three laws is the act of the executive independent of the action of the House and also of the Senate.”
Barzaga, one of the lawmakers who is calling for the amendments to the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution, said the House is in a hurry to have the initiative approved because it wants to save money by holding the election of Con-Con delegates simultaneously with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in October.
The administration lawmaker said the delegates who crafted the 1973 Constitution were elected simultaneously with the local elections in 1971.
“Kasi kung magkakaroon na naman tayo ng separate elections, in order to determine who shall be the Con-Con delegates ay talagang magastos yan at kukuwestunin na naman ng ating mga kababayan at ng mga critics ng ating administration,” he said.
If the Senate really does not have the numbers, Zubiri could have just ordered Padilla not to proceed with the public hearings anymore because it will only be a waste of time.
Barzaga said that instead of prematurely announcing that it does not have the numbers, the Senate leadership should have just waited for the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Sen. Robinhood Padilla to vote on the Cha-cha measure at the committee level and if approved, debates and discussion shall be made later on in the plenary.
“Sana tinuloy na lang yun kay Sen. Robin, sa tingin ko naman, lulusot sa committee level ‘yung proposal e ‘di napag-usapan na lang sa plenary. Mangampanya sila secretly saka bumoto at kung sakaling wala ‘yung (constitutional requirement of) two-thirds (votes), saka sabihin sa publiko, ‘the two-thirds of the Senate are not agreeable,’ but not at this time, that will be premature,” said the senior lawmaker, one of the House’s legal luminaries.
Barzaga also defended Padilla from critics who are questioning the former action star’s qualifications to head his panel, saying there is no rule that the chairman of the Constitutional Amendments Committee must be a lawyer.
“He (Padilla) has the mandate of the people. ‘Di naman kinakailangang abogado ka, kinakailangan lamang alam mo kung ano ang gusto mong baguhin. Kaya nagkakaroon siya ng public hearing, hindi naman siya one-man rule,” he said, pointing out that Padilla led the 2022 senatorial race.
Barbers, who has long been a Cha-cha supporter, agreed with Barzaga, saying that the House and the Senate should appoint representatives to tackle and settle the row now.
“I absolutely agree. ‘Yan po ang wisdom ni Cong. Pidi, dapat mag set-up ng team ng Upper and Lower House ipadala natin. Cong. Pidi, Cong. Rufus para mailatag talaga (ang position ng both Houses),” he said. “I know that deep inside their (senators) hearts and minds, gusto din nila ‘yan (Cha-cha) kaya lang they always go for public opinion, masyado silang populist e.”
When Barbers asked what Senate seems to “fear” whenever the issue of constitutional amendments is discussed, the Cavite lawmaker said: “Naririnig natin sa media, mga analysts, (that when we become a) unicameral (Legislature), majority of senators won’t be able to win in their respective districts.”
“I really do not know whether this is true or not but perhaps this is one of the apprehensions,” Barzaga said.
While the House’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 calls for the election of delegates to a Con-Con to exclusively discuss amendments to the economic provisions, House leaders have admitted that no one can stop the delegates from introducing political amendments once the body is convened.
“Alam niyo naman ‘pag naging unicameral tayo, although House and Senate are co-equal with one another, unfortunately ang perception ay tinatawag nga kaming ‘Lower House’ but there is no Lower House, there is no Higher House. Senate at saka Kongreso, equal lang kami pareho, as a matter of fact, we have some powers that the Senate does not have and in the same manner, there are some powers na ang Senado ay meron pero wala ang Kongreso,” Barzaga said.