Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) – January 13, 2021 – 3:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the House constitutional amendments committee claimed Wednesday that his panel already constitutes a constituent assembly (con-ass), even without the participation of the rest of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“We don’t need to change our form where we’d wear different clothes or we’ll have to be together,” Rep. Alfredo Garbin (AKO BICOL party-list) said in Filipino. “Every time we dealt with proposing amendments or revising the Constitution, we are sitting as a constituent assembly exercising our constituent power, apart from our legislative power.”

Garbin was responding to a question by Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) on whether the panel, which restarted debates on Charter change, is already considered a con-ass — one of three ways to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

The panel’s vice-chair, Rep. Lorenz Defensor (Iloilo), backed Garbin, saying that there is no formal act needed for Congress to open deliberations and act as a con-ass.

But this was countered by constitutional law professor Tony La Viña who told Philstar.com in a text message that both houses of Congress must first pass a resolution calling for it to convene into a con-ass.

Garbin’s declaration that his panel is already a constituent assembly also did not sit well with some lawmakers, particularly those from the opposition.

“The House panel cannot assume the convening of a con-ass on its own, without a separate enabling resolution and without the express consent and approval of the Senate,” Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list) said in a statement.

Rep. Edcel Lagman said no committee in Congress can sit as a constituent assembly because such a body can only be composed of members of the House and the Senate in a joint meeting.

Lagman is also pushing that the House and the Senate vote jointly in a con-ass, citing a 1967 Supreme Court ruling which drew a clear line between the legislature’s ordinary lawmaking powers and its power to amend the Constitution as a con-ass.

Garbin, however, stood by the House leadership’s stand for both chambers of Congress to vote separately when it comes to proposed amendments to the Constitution.



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