Wake Up, Philippines!

Bernas: They announced they’ll commit a crime

Posted in Charter Change, Congress, Constitution, house of representatives by Erineus on June 5, 2009

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:51:00 06/05/2009

MANILA, Philippines—There is no reason to take House Resolution No. 1109 to the Supreme Court because what the majority members in the House of Representatives essentially did on Tuesday night was to announce that they would commit a crime, constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said Thursday.

“To my mind, the only thing they achieved was that they shot their foot. They did not do any damage yet,” Bernas said in a forum at Ateneo de Manila University.

“What they said was, ’Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to violate the Constitution.’ But they did not violate the Constitution. That is why, to my mind, there is nothing yet to bring to the Supreme Court,” he said.

And if the House tries to bypass the Senate and takes proposed constitutional amendments to the Commission on Elections for a plebiscite, it will be “a fatal mistake,” Bernas also said.

“The amendments can only take effect if approved by a plebiscite, which they have to present to the Senate,” he pointed out.

Commenting on the possible extension of the terms of elective officials, Bernas said the Supreme Court and the military would play a part in pushing it through.

“So how real is the threat of extension? It is real only if the Supreme Court will cooperate … and more so the military,” he said.

The alternative, he said, might be a people power revolt similar to what took place in 1986. He noted that after that revolt, the justices of the Supreme Court were replaced.

“Justices might think of that if ever they are tempted to cooperate in the gang rape of the Constitution,” Bernas said.

Ball in their court

Even House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said there was no reason to question HR 1109 before the Supreme Court because there was no controversy yet.

“Why should I walk into that kind of trap?” he said in a phone interview. “”The ball is clearly in [the House majority’s] court, not mine. I’m not going to make it easier for them by dancing to their tune.”

Zamora said he refused to believe that the proponents of HR 1109 only wanted to trigger a ruling from the Supreme Court on the proper way to conduct a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

“Of course not,” he said. “You can’t call a Con-ass just to drink coffee … Of course, you’re going to discuss amendments.”

He also said the difference in the opinions of the proponents of HR 1109 on what to do next meant that “they were not the masterminds” of the resolution.


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