Senate panel sets first Cha-cha hearing

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    The Senate committee on constitutional amendments will hold a hearing tomorrow to determine whether it is the right time to amend the Constitution, given the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic “crisis,” committee chair Sen. Francis Pangilinan said yesterday.

    The first hearing on Charter change (Cha-cha) will also tackle “procedural concerns and prejudicial questions,” he said.

    The hearing was scheduled amid opposing views from the Senate and House of Representatives, with senators expressing fears that the proposed amendments will not be limited to the restrictive economic provisions, as proponents at the House have been saying.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon has said Charter change can wait until June 2022 when there is a new administration, as lawmakers must attend to more pressing matters like the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The House is scheduled to hold a hearing today. Pangilinan’s counterpart, Rep. Alfredo Garbin of the Ako Bicol party-list group, has said he is eyeing the start of plenary deliberations on the proposal to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions, on the first week of February.

    Pangilinan said the committee will determine if it is the right time to amend the Constitution, given the pandemic and economic crisis, and if it will be done through a constitutional assembly or a constitutional convention (con-con). If it will be through con-

    con, when will the plebiscite be held, he added.
    He said if Congress convenes as a con-ass, they will have to resolve a number of issues like the manner in which lawmakers will vote — joint voting of the Senate and House, or separate voting.

    Garbin has drawn flak for saying the House was already acting as a constituent assembly when it began tackling the Charter change initiative in the committee level earlier this month.

    Pangilinan said the hearing was based on Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 and Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 filed by Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Richard Gordon in July 2019, which seek to amend restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution, and RBH No. 2 filed by Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald dela Rosa on December last year seeking Congress to convene as a con-ass.

    Among invited resource persons are former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and former Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

    At the House, among resource persons invited to today’s hearing were Bernardo Villegas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution; international trade lawyer Anthony Abad; and representatives of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines.