The chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments today criticized the suggestion of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri for leaders of the two chambers to meet behind closed doors on the House constitutional reform initiative.
“I am against any executive session or secret meeting on this matter. Let us be transparent: we are discussing the fundamental law of the land, not just a proposed piece of legislation. Let us not hide our discussions from the public,” Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.
He said lawmakers should avoid discussing anything in secret, except certain issues like those affecting national security, foreign policy and the country’s territorial integrity.
On Monday, Zubiri suggested the holding of a closed-door caucus to prevent lawmakers from “grandstanding.”
Rodriguez said the Senate president was again showing his “fear of the unknown” by anticipating that some lawmakers would show off in a public hearing.
“He should trust his Congress colleagues to follow decorum. He should not mistake passion for showboating,” he said.
Zubiri also admitted advising Rodriguez’s Senate counterpart Sen. Robinhood Padilla, to postpone yesterday’s hearing on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, which calls for a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the Charter’s economic provisions.
However, Padilla proceeded with his panel’s hearing without the presence of Rodriguez, whom his committee had invited but which invitation was withdrawn at the last minute without explanation.
Zubiri said in accordance with tradition and inter-parliamentary courtesy, House members should be invited not as resource persons but as guests
Rodriguez, who has expressed dismay over the 11th-hour withdrawal of the Padilla committee’s invitation to its hearing on Monday, said there have been several instances in the past where House members appeared before Senate committees as resource persons.
“I myself have appeared in the Senate several times in person and in zoom to defend my bills on our regional hospital, our state university, the protection of our rivers and other bills authored by me”, Rodriguez insisted.
“I agree that the Senate and the House should observe parliamentary courtesy. However, what is not courteous, even in parliamentary terms, is disinviting a colleague from a co-equal body. Instead of dispensing with our presence, they should have proceeded to hear us”, he said.
He also chided Zubiri for saying the House constitutional reform initiative was already dead, since Padilla was pushing for the convening of Congress as a constituent assembly to propose amendments, while the House advocated under RBH No. 6 the calling of a constitutional convention (con-con).
“The Senate president, a former majority leader and a veteran of several Congresses, knows the process. If the two chambers have divergent versions of a proposal, they convene a bicameral conference. That is what we do with the annual budget and other laws. There are no conflicts that we cannot resolved”, he said.
Catherine R. Cueto