People”s initiative an option if Senate won”t do economic Cha-cha –solons

A people’s initiative remains a viable remedy if efforts to amend the Constitution through congressional action do not succeed, House leaders said Wednesday.

House Deputy Speaker Jayjay Suarez of Quezon and House natural resources panel vice chairperson Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte made the position with the Senate not expected to approve Resolution of Both Houses 6, which amends the economic provisions of the Constitution, anytime soon.

“The Speaker [Martin Romualdez] has not given us any instructions other than let us wait for the Senate, urge the Senate to work fast [on RBH 6], and whatever output, we will embrace it and move forward. But we appeal to them to not drag this on,” Suarez said in a press conference.

“We cannot say [we have] option 2, 3, 4, without actually knowing what the outcome would be, but my personal opinion is that people’s initiative is the most sovereign manner of amending the Constitution because it really comes from the people,” he added.

Barbers, for his part, said that “the people” should decide.

“We haven’t talked about any back-up plan as we are giving the Senate the time to consider approving RBH 6, but we would appreciate that if they approve this on schedule as they promised,” he said, referring to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s initially saying that the Senate can approve RBH 6 by March.

“If this does not happen, people’s initiative is still there, so maybe the back-up is to consider the people’s initiative, which is really out of our hands. Let us let the people decide. We really need to amend the restrictive provisions of our Constitution to be globally competitive,” Barbers added.

The signature campaign asks voters if they are in favor of amending Article 17, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution by allowing all members of Congress to jointly vote on proposed constitutional amendments in a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

The constitutional provision for amending the Constitution via Con-Ass as provided under Article 17 Section 1 does not explicitly state whether the bicameral Congress should vote jointly or separately on proposed amendments on the 1987 Constitution.

As such, a united House would overwhelm the Senate’s votes in a joint voting via Con-Ass since the House has over 300 members as compared to the Senate’s 24.

EXPLAINER: How Cha-cha via people’s initiative works and why it’s not as easy as it seems

Last month, the Senate issued a manifesto condemning the signature campaign, saying it wants to “guard against any sinister and underhanded attempt to change the Constitution by exploiting our democratic process under the guise of a people’s initiative.”

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) provided updates on the signatures gathered for the people’s initiative until it stopped accepting signatures on January 29, citing lack of executory laws.

Senator Imee Marcos has also said she received reports that Speaker Martin Romualdez—cousin to her and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.—is behind people’s initiative efforts that offered P20 million per district in exchange of the voters’ signature.

This was denied by Romualdez, who called on her to prove the allegations— BM, GMA Integrated News

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