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Enrile: No constituent assembly at SONA

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:37:00 06/21/2009

Filed Under: Charter change, Politics, Congress

MANILA, Philippines -- Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has vowed to make sure senators are out of the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City should the House try to convene a constituent assembly after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s State of the Nation (SONA) address on July 27.

?If they will try to convene Con-ass [constituent assembly] ... I will immediately adjourn the session of the Senate,? Enrile said, noting that such a move by the House would be ?illegal? and ?unconstitutional.?

Saying he knew his ?parliamentary rules,? Enrile said on Sunday that before the convening of the joint session of Congress on the afternoon of July 27, the Senate and the House of Representatives would convene separately early in the day to pass a resolution ?calling for a joint session of Congress.?

?And we state the purpose [in the calling for a joint session of Congress] ---to hear the SONA message of the President,? Enrile said, adding, ?We will just hear the President's SONA and there will be no more agenda.?

Enrile was reacting to statements made earlier by some congressman that the House would convene a constituent assembly, even without the senators, after Arroyo?s SONA presentation on July 27.

Senators have passed unanimously a resolution deeming the House bid to amend the Constitution without the Senate through a constituent assembly as unconstitutional.

They have also pledged not to participate in a constituent assembly process premised on the two houses of Congress voting as one body, which would marginalize the 24 senators in terms of voting power and in effect, allow the House to hold con-ass even without the Senate?s consent.

But still, Enrile doubted whether House leaders would pull off such a stunt as he assured people that this would not happen and that even Arroyo would not allow it.

?Even the President will not allow a thing like that. We're actually abusing the Constitution,? Enrile told radio station dzBB.

He said that even House Speaker Prospero Nograles had ?never hinted to me anything about Cha-cha [Charter change].?

And while Enrile said he agreed on the need to revise the 1987 Constitution because of its ?many defects,? it should be done after the 2010 elections.

In the same dzBB program, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., said he did not see the need to walk out of the session on July 27 and revealed he would not attend the SONA at all.

While Pimentel said there could be chaos should the House push for the convening of a constituent assembly on July 27, he said he got an assurance from Nograles through a text message that the House would not make an attempt.

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