Warning of Looming Constitutional Crisis by Zubiri

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri
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The political landscape of the country is currently in turmoil, with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri warning that the nation is slowly heading towards a constitutional crisis. The tension between lawmakers escalated on Saturday when a member of the House of Representatives accused “some senators” of undermining the integrity of Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Zubiri highlighted that the Senate had already expressed concerns about a possible constitutional crisis when the House initiated a campaign to amend the 1987 charter. The proposed amendment aimed to allow both Houses to vote together as a constituent assembly instead of separately. However, this campaign was launched despite the prior agreement, Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6, which stated that the focus would be solely on amending the charter’s economic provisions, aligning with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s goal of attracting investors.

Speaker Romualdez has been implicated as the mastermind behind the campaign, an accusation he vehemently denies. In response, Romualdez wrote to Zubiri, expressing the House’s support for RBH 6 and proposing an “alternative” Senate-led people’s initiative.

Zubiri acknowledged Romualdez’s letter in a statement on Friday and assured him of a reply on Monday. However, he maintained that any legitimate people’s initiative must be genuinely led by the people. Zubiri also criticized the ongoing campaign, stating that it is “flawed and unconstitutional” in its current form and how the signatures are being collected.

“We hope this crisis will be averted soon. We intend to carefully study the options available to us to maintain the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution through a bicameral legislature. We remain vigilant for our country and our people,” Zubiri stated.

In his letter to Zubiri, Romualdez emphasized that the deputy speakers, majority leader, and minority leader fully support RBH 6, which Zubiri filed on January 15, 2024. Romualdez also pledged to adopt this measure once the Senate approves it and committed to supporting an alternative people’s initiative led by the Senate, focusing on amending the restrictive provisions of the Constitution.

Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel “Joel” Villanueva strongly criticized Romualdez’s letter, considering it an insult to the Senate as an institution. Villanueva questioned whether Romualdez was admitting to leading a “fake” initiative. He expressed his frustration, stating, “This is the very reason why we are so passionate and angered by this People’s Initiative.”

Villanueva emphasized that the Senate would not allow itself to be taken hostage by the House. He declared, “The Senate will never allow itself to be hostaged — history will bear me out — even by the most powerful person in the world. The Senate will not allow itself to be a hostage.”

In response to the ongoing signature campaign, the Senate released a manifesto signed by all 24 senators, opposing the initiative. The manifesto highlighted the goal of making it easier to revise the Constitution by eliminating the Senate from the equation. The senators expressed concerns that this campaign could be a prelude to further amendments, revisions, or even an overhaul of the entire Constitution.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Representative Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe found it troubling to witness a group of senators engaging in “baseless attacks” against Romualdez and other House members. Dalipe emphasized the importance of respect, stating, “By undermining the House, the Senate not only sows discord but also jeopardizes the stability of our nation.”

The country is currently at a critical juncture, with the potential for a constitutional crisis looming. It is essential for all parties involved to find common ground and work towards resolving their differences in a manner that upholds the integrity of the Constitution and serves the best interests of the nation.

Source: The Manila Times

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