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Feb 04th
Home Columns JGL Eye CON-ASS, a Con Job?
CON-ASS, a Con Job? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Wednesday, 10 June 2009 18:35





C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – On June 8, 1953, before Justice and Defense Secretary Oscar Tombo Castelo, unarguably the most powerful Cabinet member in the Quirino administration, left for Korea (note: at the time, that country was not yet partitioned), boarded the plane at the airfield, he called his nephew Augusto Melencio (who was also agent of the Defense Department) and his hatchet man, Bienvenido Mendoza alias “Ben Ulo,” and told them, "Huwag lang hindi ninyo mapatay si [Manuel P.] Monroy bago ako dumating." (Don't fail to kill [Manuel P.] Monroy before my return) to which Ben Ulo replied, "Huwag kang mag-alala, halos patay na siya." (Don't you worry, he is as good as dead.).


In the mid-80’s, when a Mindanao governor left for the United States, my friend, Demy Dingcong, my fellow correspondent in the Manila Bulletin based in Mindanao, was shot dead at point-blank by a wayward soldier.




C oincidence or not, it seems that Filipino politicians have used the modus operandi of Secretary Castelo as template in getting back at their political and personal opponents – by leaving the country as an alibi – before carrying out major, if not abominable, tasks.


And this appears to be the coded message sent by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to her allies in the House of Representatives to pass Resolution No. 1109 that could extend her term for life while she was traveling to Russia so she can feign innocence.


Despite Malacañang’s denial that it has nothing to do with the passage of the measure in the House, nobody seems to be nibbling at the bait.


Resolution 1109 would convert the House into a Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass), without the participation of the Philippine Senate. And the Con Ass can introduce any revision or amendments into the Constitution at her behest, including Arroyo’s extension of power beyond 2010.




T here is no doubt 1109 is one of the dumbest moves of the House that will induce a constitutional crisis.


Even if her spokesman will say that President Arroyo is now tired of living in a gilded palace after visiting all the tourist spots all over the world and after hobnobbing with the Earth’s mightiest of rulers and presidents, except Barack Obama, Arroyo’s critics believe that her actions are those of a 100-year-old politician, who is not yet ready to retire.


Everybody knows that Congress is like a married couple – it is composed of the Senate and the House – one cannot do without the other.


Just take a look at Article VI of the Philippine Constitution. It says, “legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives …”


But in some strange twist of fate, Section 23 of the same article says, “The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war.”


I believe, this Section 23 provision, must have given Arroyo’s House allies an idea that they found a loophole in the Constitution when they saw ARTICLE XVII, AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS, whose Section 1. says, “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention.”




By not being specific as Section 23, where “Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately” in its war powers provision, the framers of the Constitution might have given Arroyo’s House allies the idea that the Amendments or Revisions provision deserves a narrow interpretation of referring “Congress” only to members of the House to the exclusion of the Senators.


If this narrow interpretation prevails then it is not really the fault of Arroyo’s allies but the framers, who did not separate the manner of voting of the House and Senate in the “Amendments or Revisions” provisions as they did in the war powers provision.


But if Arroyo’s allies have conscience, they are not supposed to bank on these typographical or copyrighting errors of the framers to advance their interests. They should, instead call for the amendment of these “Amendments or Revisions” provisions of the Constitution.


Arroyo’s allies should be sport and they should instead pave the way for smooth turnover of power in 2010 by junking Resolution 1109 and by supporting the integrity of the upcoming presidential elections.


When you take a close a look at the Philippine Constitution, it was patterned after the United States Constitution.


A closer look at the Article 5 Amendment provision of the U.S. Constitution, it shows that it is as specific as the war powers provision when it says, “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution …”




It is possible that the Philippine Senators and House of Representatives are not looking at the same page. The Senators could be looking at the U.S. Constitution while the Representatives are looking at the Philippine Constitution.


If you ask me, Arroyo’s Allies have basis for their call for charter change, though based on a typographical or copyrighting error, because they don’t want to cede the power they are now currently enjoying to others.

Hopefully, the next framers of our Constitution will employ good proofreaders and copyreaders when they turn in their final copy.


As to the fate of Secretary Castelo, the Supreme Court affirmed his jail sentence for life for murder, together with his henchmen. ( # # # 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 18:46

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Quote of the Day

If a man will begin with certainties,he shall end with doubts;but if he will be content to begin with doubts,he shall end in certainties.-- Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626