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MILITANT SOLONS WARN: SC ruling won’t stop constituent assembly

Posted in Charter Change, house of representatives, Supreme Court Decisions by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Maila Ager
First Posted 14:06:00 06/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Supreme Court’s dismissal of a petition against House Resolution 1109, which seeks to convene a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, could embolden its proponents to push through with their plan, militant lawmakers warned.

Without deciding on the legality of HR 1109, the high tribunal on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano and his daughter, Evangeline, saying it was premature to question it.

“It doesn’t close the issue. Proponents of con ass [constituent assembly] will continue their initiative, the Lozano petition as no relevance on what they’re pushing for,” Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo said in a phone interview.

Representative Teodoro Casiño, also of Bayan Muna, said HR 110 proponents could put a spin on the decision to make it appear that the Supreme Court upheld the resolution, while in fact, the petition questioning it was dismissed on a technicality.

“They could say that since a petition against it was dismissed, it could mean that there’s no more hindrance to convening a constituent assembly,” Casiño said in a phone interview.

“Lozano’s petition was designed to fail so that its dismissal can be used to justify Lakas-Kampi’s next step which is the immediate convening of the House constituent assembly,” Casiño said in a separate text message.

Anakpawis party list Representative Rafael Mariano said the dismissal would “incite Ms Arroyo’s allies to force the situation and convene her self-serving constituent assembly.”

“After the SC’s favorable ruling, Ms Arroyo and her minions will be more aggressive and desperate to convene a fake constituent assembly and perpetuate themselves in power. The people should not let their guard down,” Mariano said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, the main author of the resolution, said the dismissal was anticipated.

Echoing the view of Constitution expert, Father Joaquin Bernas, he said that HR 1109 did not by itself convene Congress into a constituent assembly.

“There will be justiciable issue only when con ass is actually convened and specific amendments (are proposed),” Nograles said.

Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino, another proponent of HR 1109, said that Lozano’s petition was premature since there was no actual convening of the assembly yet.

Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, a member of the Liberal Party, welcomed the tribunal’s decision.

“This should also be a warning to Representative Antonino that his plan will not work. The dismissal of the case of Lozano will now force the proponents of HR 1109 to either convene con ass to create the judicial controversy or to just forget HR 1109 and have it archived. The LP hopes that the proponents choose the later,” he said in a text message.

Muntinlupa Representative Rufino Biazon said the decision was expected, saying that a “justiciable controversy will only happen if the House actually convenes itself into a con ass and the Senate disagrees.”

Gabriela partylist Representative Liza Maza said HR 1109 remained as mere “expression of the House” and that there was no controversy yet as long as there was no move to convene.

“Lozano should be told not to resort to legal adventurism on this very important issue,” Maza said.

Representative Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan partylist said the Supreme Court “avoided Malacañang and the House majority’s trap of ruling on the political question” by dismissing the “nuisance case.”

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Manuel Roxas and Richard Gordon said the court’s ruling was expected because the constituent assembly has not been convened.

“Expected na namin yun kaya nga hindi nga kumikilos ang Senado [That’s expected. That’s why the Senate is not moving],” Enrile said.

Roxas said the Senate legal department was instructed to prepare in case the constituent assembly is convened, even as senators agreed in a caucus early this month not to act on HR 1109.

He said a mere announcement of the date for the convening of a constituent assembly could be enough grounds to question the matter before the court.

Some congressmen pushing for Charter change want to convene the assembly immediately after President Gloria Maapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.

Gordon warned pro-Charter change lawmakers that the Supreme Court would rule against a House-only constituent assembly.

“Sa ngayon, ang malinaw ang dapat gawin ng ng Kongreso kung gusto nilang mag con-as na sila-sila lang, pati yan ay ibabasura ng Korte Suprema sapagkat paulit-ulit naming sinasabi ang Congress ay two houses. Hindi kayang gawin ng lower house, yung pagbabago ng Saligang Batas [It’s clear, if the House wants a constituent assembly by itself, the Supreme Court will rule against it. We have said repeatedly that Congress has two chambers. The lower house alone can’t amend the Constitution],” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. welcomed the SC ruling as “good news.”


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