Not being a lawyer, much less a constitutional lawyer, but just a lousy insurance broker, I dare not discuss the resolution of the House to call a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) to amend the Constitution — except as a poor layman.
So, gather around, fellow mortals, and let us try to figure out what is going on.
There are two ways to amend the Constitution. One, to call a convention where every member is elected by the people; whatever the convention comes up with is ratified afterwards in a plebiscite. Two, for Congress to get together in a Constitutional Assembly, a big pow-wow of lawmakers only.
The Con-Ass has triggered a big debate over whether the House and the Senate are to vote separately or as one. Voting separately is frowned upon by the Administration simply because the Senate is under the control of the Opposition. But legal experts favor separate voting. As a poor layman, I agree. If a House bill changing the name of a street or estero needs separate Senate approval, it is clear to me that a constitutional amendment must be voted upon by the Senate separately.
Now, our august congressmen, after so much debate, assiduously covered by media, have approved a resolution calling for a Con-Ass. This has sparked outrage all over the country, and rightly so. I share the suspicion of a lot of people that the Con-Ass is intended to remove the term limits of all elected officials, from the President down to the lowliest barangay chairman.
Speaker Nograles is quick to assure everyone that Con-Ass is intended merely to allow foreigners to own land. Questions crop up right away.
How come there are no published details about this proposal? I do not really mind if a foreigner buys the lot beside my house to build a mansion as long as his pursuits are totally legal. But for a foreigner to own vast tracts of agricultural or government land is quite another matter.
How come there is no fixed agenda for the Con-Ass? Is this because, as many suspect, once the Con-Ass opens, anything can happen anyway, including the real purpose, which is the removal of term limits of all elected officials.
How come the Senate is being left out on the Con-Ass? I am sure that, as long as the proposal to allow foreigners to own land is reasonable, our Senators, in their collective wisdom, will be willing to listen and go along.
I caught former congressman and defeated senatorial candidate Pichay on TV last night. He said that a copy of the resolution will be sent to each Senator. This, he said, will take care of the need to send the resolution to the Senate as a whole. Why all this fancy footwork?
Hovering over the entire proceedings is the strange withdrawal by my kababayan Congressman Luis Villafuerte of his sponsorship of the resolution. His complete turnaround followed an impassioned justification of the resolution without Senate participation.
When politicians do many things at the same time which I don’t understand, my instincts say: MOUNT THE BARRICADES!
NOTE: My column will appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.