Understanding CON-ASS

The words Cha-Cha, Con-Ass, and Constituent Assembly have been reverberating in everyone’s ears due to the heating opposition and dissent from the people. Just recently, the protest against Con-Ass has also assembled thousands of protesters in Makati City to strongly air their sentiments against the president’s Con-Ass. Thereafter, several protests against Cha-Cha have been performed in public streets of Manila and in other cities. It has also been regularly covered in all print and broadcast media. However, despite the popularity of the opposed Con-Ass, probably some have no clear knowledge about it and some may have no interest at all about the issue.

Historically, the attempt to change the Constitution has already been proposed even centuries ago since its ratification. There have also been various politicians or presidents who attempted to initiate to change the Constitution. However, the 1987 Constitution remained untouched.

HR 1109 and Role of Senate

Under the 1987 Constitution, the revision or amendment of fundamental law of the land may only be proposed through a Constituent Assembly and through Constitutional Convention. The present proposition of the House of Representative falls under the Constituent Assembly wherein amendments or revisions may be made by a vote of two thirds of the Congress. In the House Resolution 1109, it contained the call for a Constituent Assembly wherein the proponents have called to assemble the member of Congress to revise and amend the Constitution even without the Senate approving it.

The Congressmen have clearly relied upon the words of the Constitution which states; “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.” To further support their proposal, the Resolution further states;

“WHEREAS, it is to be emphasized and underscored that some essential words and phrases in the aforequoted 1935 Constitution were deleted and no longer contained in the aforequoted 1987 Constitution, such that the “amendments by deletion” are as follows:

1. The phrase “in joint session assembled” in the 1935 Constitution was deleted;

2. The phrase that the Senate and the House of Representatives, voting separately” was also deleted;

3. The percentage of voting three-fourths of the respective membership of each House (the Senate and the House of Representatives) treated separately has also been deleted and substituted with a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of Congress (i.e., ¾ of the “members of Congress” without distinction as to which institution of Congress they belong to).

In several interviews also, the Congressmen who passed the resolution were determined and adamant in their stand that CON-ASS may pursue even without the Senate. Clearly, they emphasized that even if the Senate will not participate, it is still enough for them to pass any revision or amendment.

However, in the words of Constitutional guru, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, the Congress being referred to is composed necessarily of both the House of Representative and the Senate. The Constituent Assembly also pertains to the House of Representatives and Senate. Other constitutionalists also interpret the law as such. Hence, in revising or amending the Constitution, participation of Senate is indispensable. Nevertheless, even if the Senate will join the Con-Ass, their votes would be outnumbered by the number of Congressmen proposing for amending the Constitution.

With this kind of situation, the Con-Ass may successful and changes may be made in the Constitution.

Changing the Constitution is not illegal, bad or wrong per se. But the protests around the country may raise a question as why is it being opposed due to different reactions I have heard personally. While watching the news inside a bus, I heard someone saying "rally na naman, hindi ba sila nagsasawa?" During the rally in Makati, the news reporter received the same answer from their correspondents- that Con-Ass is being opposed to prevent the extension of the term of GMA.

Though this is true, there are other reason why the Con-Ass should be prevented and strongly opposed for the time being. As has been said, changing the Constitution is not bad. However, the time is not right.

The proposed Con-Ass is being opposed because it may be used by the administration to implement its plan to change the government into federal form. Eventually, the term of GMA may also be extended.2010 election may not pursue. In addition, they may also proposed that foreign investors/businessmen may own 100% ownership of his company in the country. Real and present danger is, hence,attached to the plan of changing the Constitution.

For some, the Con-Ass may mean nothing. But, in reality, every Filipino is directly affected by it. Be it noted also that the Congress' act of passing the bill in only a split of hours suggests doubt and controversy. Though there is nothing wrong with the resolution per se, the action of the Congressmen towards it is suspicious. Several personalities from administration also reiterated that 2010 will pursue and that CHA-CHA will not include term extension, HOWEVER, these politicians who uttered such words or promise are barefaced liar. So, how could they be trusted? Will they ever stand for the truthfulness of their statements?

Hence, in order to erase the fears, doubts, suspicions, and to fully establish that the proposed amendments will benefit the people, it should be done after the 2010 election. Allowing CHA-CHA after election is the acid test for the objectives of the Congressmen behind it.

(N.B. this is based on my limited knowledge about Con-Ass and if you have additional info please share it to me ^-^).


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