Monday, December 04, 2006


CODAL warns Charter Change proponents that their plan to scrap the 2007 elections may lead to a constitutional and political crisis. Speaker Jose de Venecia justified their proposed scrapping of the 2007 elections by admitting that it would be impossible for the Comelec to conduct a plebiscite in February and also conduct the election in May 2007. The Speaker, however, premised his argument on the possibility that cha-cha advocates will get a “yes” vote during the plebiscite. If the people will reject charter change in the plebiscite, there will still be no elections in May 2007, due to the physical and budgetary impossibility of conducting one. The COMELEC budget cannot afford two national electoral exercises, especially if the 2006 budget is reenacted. The failure to hold elections in 2007 should ‘charter change’ be defeated in a plebiscite, will create an unconstitutional government considering that half of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives and all local officials in the country will be “holding over” beyond their constitutional mandate and term, a crisis of unimaginable proportion for the Arroyo government. In fact, Chairman Abalos warned about this crisis in his recent statements before the media, and we quote:
Abalos also warned of a constitutional crisis if there would be no elections next year since there would no longer be a House of Representatives or Senate, because its members could not remain in office in a hold-over capacity.
“I don’t want to be an alarmist but if the 2007 elections don’t push through due to lack of funds, we will have a constitutional crisis because we will have no House of Representatives and a Senate with only 12 members,”

Constitutional Issues against “Con-Ass”

According to a CODAL study the current move in the House to delete from House Rule 105 the provision which states that The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to or revision of the constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills is legally and constitutional untenable. While an ordinary bill will require the scrutiny and careful consideration of the House through 3 readings and the passage of a similar bill from the Senate, the House majority cannot explain why amendments to the Constitution need not go through the rigor of that similar process. Such a deletion will only lead to a “con ass’ without the Senate, a violation of Art. XVII, Sec. 1 of the Constitution. Speaker de Venecia and the House majority actually violates its own rules by doing so, since Rule XXV, Sec. 150 of the Rules of the House provide that :
“Rule 150—Any provision of these Rules, except those that are also embodied in the Constitution, may be amended by a majority vote of all the members of the House”

The other constitutional issue against Con-Ass is the fact that a joint session of Congress can only be convened if each of the two Houses issue a joint resolution convening both Houses in a joint session. It cannot be achieved, under the Constitution, by one House ‘inviting’ the other. Absent a Senate resolution calling for a joint session, any Senator who attends the ‘con-ass’ does so in his personal capacity and not in representation of the Senate as an institution. The Senate-less ‘con ass’ is therefore illegal and unconstitutional and will subject those who participate in it to criminal liability. Senators attending the “con ass “ representing the Senate will commit the crime of ‘usurpation of authority” under Art. 177 of the Penal Code which penalizes with prision correccional, “any person who shall knowingly and falsely represent himself to be an … agent or representative of any department or agency of the Philippine government, under pretense of official position x x x without being legally entitled to do so.”

Officials who will remain in office after the expiry of their term in June 2007, is liable under Art. 237 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes public officials who “continues to exercise the powers and functions of his office…beyond the period provided by law’ with prision correctional and temporary disqualification from holding public office.

Rampage during the Asean

CODAL warns that blatant attempts to ram the passage of charter change through a ‘con ass’ despite the unconstitutionality and illegality of such move will only exacerbate the political instability and increase the unpopularity of Pres. Gloria Arroyo who is perceived as leading the ‘final push’ in tandem with Speaker de Venecia. The pent-up anger of the people will only increase the protest currently being planned during the ASEAN conference.

The ‘con ass’ scenario, whether or not it is approved in the subsequent plebiscite will result in the cancellation of the 2007 elections. The constitutional crisis that looms because of the blatantly unconstitutional attempts to short-circuit the process of amending the Constitution is imminent, unless ‘con ass’ is successfully shelved or defeated.

Reference Person Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date: December 4, 2006


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