Press Release
September 29, 2011

Transcript of the Presscon during the
Legislative Summit held at EDSA Shangri-la

Speaker Belmonte: This is the first Legislative Summit ever but we agreed that this is a good idea and that we should institutionalize it in the future. Concretely, we noted that several of the priority bills of the House and the Senate, we have already agreed on, in the sense that there are counterpart measures. We also noted that 11 bills passed by the House have been sent to the Senate and the same number of bills approved in the Senate has been passed over to the House and these things are all pending in the two Chambers.

We have decided to put together the priority bills of the House and the Senate as well as what had already been agreed on in the LEDAC, which is composed of 34 bills. And they will together comprise the joined priority bills of the two Chambers. Having said that, there arises the problem of prioritizing the priority bills and for that purpose we have created a joint working or coordinating committee basically composed of the Senate majority Floor leader and the House Floor Majority leader, the chairman of the finance committee of the Senate and the chairman of the appropriations committee of the House and such other concerned committee chairmen and they will meet with each other at their convenience in order to see what can actually be done. The main purpose here is to have a mechanism by which that things that we have already agreed on can be fast-tracked and approved by the two Chambers. Foremost of these are the decisions already approved in the LEDAC. Now having agreed on the common legislative agenda and the mechanism by which we can update and coordinate with each other as well as act on these priorities, we proceeded to discuss the possibility of questions relative to the amendments to the Constitutions and we agreed that it will be the subject of another legislative meeting and in the meantime, consultations, both formal and informal within the Chambers, among the Senators, among the representatives will take place to prepare for the ground work. So that is the summary of what we did this morning.

Senate President Enrile: The Speaker has already described to you what we have done and what we intend to do. I just would like to clarify the reason for the summit which was initiated by the House of Representatives with the concurrence of the Senate. We are not here to supplant the Executive. We recognize the power of the Executive to define the policies and programs of the nation, how it should proceed and the way to govern it. What we have done today is simply to supplement the effort of the Executive in line with our principle of coordination with the two other branches of government. I am glad that the discussion was very open, transparent and candid and all of us agreed that we are doing this not for any self interest or parochial concerns but in recognition of the need of the country and its people to address the problems to find a way, to hasten the solution of these problems and to move this country faster forward to the future. In connection with the already stated plan of the summit to consider revisiting the Constitution, I would like to leave the discussion of this to Sen. Franklin Drilon and the Majority Floor Leader. Sen. Drilon has prepared a paper on the subject of possible revision of the Constitution and I would like to thank him for his initiative and his anticipation of the problem.

Senator Drilon: In the course of the legislative summit, I submitted to the Speaker and the Senate President a position paper on the manner of amending the Constitution. For the past several years, there have been various attempts to amend the Constitution, however it has not succeeded for various reasons. First, there is always the fear that calling a Constituent Assembly or calling a Constitutional Convention, which are the two principal modes of amending or revising the Constitution, will open the entire document to amendments and various sectors of society have feared that if this is allowed then parochial interests or vested interests will come in. Number 2, we in the Senate have always been reluctant to agree to a Constituent Assembly because of the question of joint voting or separate voting, because again the Constitution at this point, allows or can be interpreted to mean that in a joint Constituent Assembly, each legislator will have one vote in which case, the House because of their numbers, will have their way and the senators fear that such situation this is not conducive to a check and balance. What I have proposed to the Speaker and the Senate President this morning is a bicameral constituent assembly. Amendahin po natin ang atin sariling batas sa pamamagitan ng bicameral constituent assembly. Kung saan ang magkabilang kapulungan ay boboto ng hiwalay. We will use the legislative process and law making procedure in amending the Constitution because on that point we will be exercising our constituent function through a bicameral assembly consistent with our bicameral legislature. We are glad that there is unanimity in this by no less than the Speaker of the House, who expressed concurrence. This is a proposal that was brought about by the Senate President in this summit and constitutionalist like Raul Daza and Congressman Pablo Garcia are in concurrence that this could be done. So this is the process that we are going to agree on, the committee that was formed consisting of Majority Floor Leader Gonzales and Majority Leader Sotto, together with the two chairmen of the finance and appropriations committee will now sit down just to push this further and submit a definite proposal at the next summit on the concrete steps that we will take in order to push this idea of having a bicameral constituent assembly to propose amendments to specific provisions of the constitution. It will not open the entire document to amendments. This is done in the United States. It will be that these proposals will be debated by both houses publicly. We will have committee hearings. We will be transparent. We will invite experts so it will be transparent and the fear that there will be some vested interests will be prevented. This is now the proposal that will be on the table. Both houses agreed that it will be a good start. This process will not only involve legislature but will also involve ratification. In other words, nothing is effective even if passed by both Congress. Nothing will be effective until ratified by the people. It is not a simple majority but -- of the members voting separately in their own chambers. Assuming that we have agreed, it will be submitted for ratification and approval of the people. We will just follow the legislative procedure but all the substantive requirements of -- vote and ratification will be followed to push this amendment.

House Majority Floor Leader Gonzales: Just to put it in the right perspective, the meeting of the first legislative summit was for the purpose of identifying common legislative agenda on the part of the House and on the part of the Senate. We already agreed that there will be 30 from the House of Representatives that are legislative priorities and 34 legislative priorities of the Senate. So that's about 64 and there are about 11 more pending in the House that the Senate has approved on third reading that are pending in the House. Together with LEDAC priorities, there will be about a hundred or so that becomes part of the legislative agenda of the House and the Senate and 34 of which are part of the LEDAC priorities. So far as the LEDAC priorities are concerned, there are about 15 or so that on the part of the House are already on the advanced stage. We are pretty confident that what we already agreed upon today is very possible that by the end of the year, we will be able to approve at least 30 or so national bills that are part of our common legislative agenda.

Each chamber will submit their proposed amendments to the constitution, is that the process that you will go through?

Drilon: Each Senator and Congressman is free to propose an amendment just like any legislation. It will be taken up in committee hearings or in the committee of the whole then afterwards a committee report is submitted. If there are disagreeing provisions passed by the House and the Senate, we will go to -- voting of each chamber. We go to bicam. We now thresh out the differences. The bicam report will then be submitted to both chambers again -- vote will be required. Afterwards, we go to ratifying. The consensus is that we will only touch the economic provisions of the constitution. We will not touch the structure of government . We will not touch the term limits just on the economic provisions.

Senator Sotto: The primary result of the first summit is that we actually classify the listing of the 100 priority bills from both houses including the LEDAC and the bills listed from the executive department. Then the second point is the issue on the economic points and the amendment to the constitution.

Given that Malacanang is not open to the idea right now, is there any timeline regarding this proposed amendments that this will be completed prior to the campaign of the 2013 elections?

Sotto : The 100 priority bills, there is a timeline - June 2013.

Speaker Belmonte: Actually there is a great amount of common agreement on what should be tackled with respect to the constitution. We all agree only on the economic provisions and nothing more. Since that is relatively straightforward, we do not anticipate that this is something that will last for long. The reason why we are kind of upbeat on the matter is that there is already a general consensus that we will be voting separately. Unlike before, the reason why hindi talaga nag-fafly any attempt to amend the constitution on the economic provision no matter how worthy the suggestions are, it's because of the consistent battle whether or not we will be voting separately but because there is now a general consensus that we will be voting separately. That's the reason why we have a positive outlook on the matter.

Q: Are there any attempts to convince the president to support this bicameral constituent assembly?

Enrile: We have not sounded the president. This is purely an initiative of Congress. Eventually, the president will have to come into play. We operate as a holistic government. I would like to emphasize the fact that we are opening the discussion of the possibility on amending the economic provisions of the constitution. But I must hasten to act that we are not going to rush this without thinking about it very, very, very carefully because this involves the life of the nation, the interest of the people of this country. We'll have to open the discussion to the entire nation to all the sectors of society and bring their inputs into it and see whether the effort is wise enough to proceed. If not, we will not do it. Even if we approve it in Congress, it will still be the people who will approve it or disapprove it. The final act will be the sovereign people themselves. We only can recommend to them but we have to start it as legislators of the country.

Q: Senator Drilon said that the provisions will be laid out in the next summit.

Drilon: We will just lay out the precise procedure that we will follow in this process. We are not discussing any substantive amendments.

Q: So, can you give us what specific economic provisions?

Drilon: We will discuss the procedural aspects because this process has never been tested before. It was always the position that in order to amend the Constitution, we must convene a Constituent Assembly. After that, the issue of voting separately or jointly prevents us from even going one step further. Therefore, we are proposing something that can allow us to proceed beyond the problem by proposing a bicameral Constituent Assembly. The only consensus is the procedure and the economic provision. So, the leadership of both Houses has tasked the committee to submit to both Houses and to the leadership, the exact procedure that we will follow when we amend the Constitution through our regular law-making procedure. That's all.

Q: The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments is already taking up some economic provisions...

Drilon: That will be discussed on the Floor once we have agreed on the procedure. By the way, Congressmen Daza and Garcia have informed the summit that the House rules allow this kind of procedure so that gives us a good chance. Even in the Senate rules, Section 30 would allow this kind of procedure so we will be proceeding along this line. I will repeat, this is an idea which would have to be finalized by both Houses in so far as procedure is concerned. We are not talking of the substantive aspects except that the amendments, by consensus, will be limited to the economic provisions.

Q: Senator Drilon, if you want to touch only the economic provisions of the Constitution, of course we will introduce specific provisions under that particular provision. May we know, sir, what specific provisions you want to introduce?

Drilon: Not yet except the broad stroke of economic provisions. There is no definite proposal on anything. The summit only agreed that we will examine this bicameral Constituent Assembly process that we have proposed.

Q: Sir, the Speaker earlier mentioned that there is an overwhelming consensus on the economic provisions that will be tackled and you're following the legislative track in going through this. So, that spells out clearly that it is going to be swift.

Drilon: It will not be a swift process.

Q: No, I mean, sir, it's going to be somewhat easy because everybody's in agreement that, of course, you're going to study that but...

Drilon: You know we are just talking here. Let us not jump the gun. We are talking just about the procedure. That's all we have agreed upon. Just two items, the procedure and the economic provisions. Beyond that, there is no consensus yet and we will work on it in the next summit.

Q: Sir, when would that be?

Drilon: That is a matter that both Chambers have to agree upon.

Q: Senator, what do you find so wrong about the economic provisions?

Drilon: We are talking here of the procedure. We are not saying that there is anything wrong. We just have to open it up for discussion. There is nothing written in stone.

Enrile: When we talk about deficiencies, badness, wrongness or what, if we could improve the Constitutional provision bearing on the economic life of this country, then we should do it. If there's nothing wrong, and we find there's nothing wrong in our examination of the Constitution, then we don't proceed. That's the tendency of this proposal.

Q: Aside from the Charter amendments, what other specific bills did you agree on?

Sotto: One hundred nga itong bills. The agreement in the summit is the listing will be comprised of 34 bills from the LEDAC which is now down to 31 because three were already approved, 30 from the House of Representatives and 36 from the Senate. We agreed on this. So, the next step is to classify these 100 bills. After classifying, we prioritize so wala pa. I cannot specify a particular bill at this point unless we are done classifying and prioritizing. That will be the next step of the working committee composed of House and Senate leaders.

Q: Sir, clarify ko lang po, 'yung RH Bill and Oil Deregulation Law, napag-usapan niyo kanina?

Belmonte: We did not discuss the diminute of the 34 LEDAC bills but that's included in the LEDAC, the RH.

Q: The FOI?

Enrile: It's in the list.

Q: In the economic provisions, how about the 60/40 equity, do you want that improved, Mr. Senator?

Enrile: Same answer as before.

Q: What about the unfilled positions? How do you reconcile the unfilled positions in the Senate and the House?

Enrile: That is something that we have to discuss with the Executive Department quietly.

On the legislative summit

Enrile: We will have to study the procedure first. It would be within the year or maybe next year to tackle these things.

Q: It's possible sir na not this year?

Enrile: Its possible na not this year because we have the budget hearing. We have a lot to consider although it is a priority. But surely when we come back next year.

Q: Sir, bakit niyo po naisip? What's the reason behind?

Enrile: This has been jellying in our minds for a long, long time. We cannot proceed into really developing this country unless we relax the restrictions in the constitution in order to hasten the creation of jobs for the people. Our main purpose here is to give our people the opportunity to have jobs. That's the irreducible minimum and also wider investments in order to make ourselves attractive to the entry of foreign money. No country in the world has prospered without investments. Even if we contract our population to the barest minimum unless we have massive investment in the country, we will not prosper. You're talking of China adopting the one-child policy, that did not make them prosper. It is when they opened up their country when they prospered.

Q: Sir, you think this is more important than RH bill?

I'm not saying that. The real engine of growth and prosperity in a country is investment.

Q: What is your reaction on the speech of Ambassador Thomas saying that 40 percent of male tourists come to the country for sex tourism?

Enrile: That's why I was asking if he could educate us and clarify where that number came from. I think I do not know whether he said it. If he said it, we would like to know. That is not our impression. Of course we cannot deny the fact that people come for certain reasons to see the place or to enjoy themselves personally. In the same way, even our nationals will go to their country to do the same thing or go to Europe and vice versa. To make a statement, an exact figure 40 percent, he did not say 10 percent or 5 percent, why 40 percent and not 45 percent or 35 percent. Where did he get that figure?

Q: Will you invite him?

Enrile: No, I don't have to invite him. I'm just asking him if he could please educate us.

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