Pimentel: House, Senate agree to ‘set aside differences’ on Cha-cha

The House of Representatives and the Senate have broken the impasse after agreeing to “momentarily set aside” their differences on the Charter change issue.

According to Senate Presidential Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Congressional leaders have decided to focus first on finalizing “specific constitutional amendments or revisions that will be proposed and presented to the people.”

“We have decided to focus on the revisions that have to be made rather than how these changes will be effected,” Pimentel said in a statement on Thursday, January 25.

Pimentel revealed that the agreement was reached after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Wednesday night, January 24.

The House and the Senate had ensued in a deadlock over differences on the manner of voting on Charter amendments or revisions in connection with the proposed shift to a federal form of government.

The House wants the two chambers to vote joints, while the outnumbered Senate insists on voting separately.

But Pimentel stressed that the differing legal views on how to amend the Constitution “should not distract us from the crux of this exercise: to make revisions to the charter that will help improve our people’s lives.”

He expressed belief that “it is abundantly clear that a review of our Charter is long overdue, as repeatedly stressed by the resource persons at the Senate hearing tackling constitutional amendments.”

“But we need to determine first what exact amendments or revisions will benefit the people. After this we can tackle how we will go about enacting these amendments in a manner that maximizes citizen involvement and is consistent with the law,” the Senate leader added.

Alvarez also issued a similar statement.

“[We agreed that] we will talk about the details first; for example, the structure of the government until we complete the new Constitution. Afterwards, it will not make any difference anymore if we vote separately or jointly,” the House speaker told radio station dzBB.

Alvarez likewise clarified that there was no animosity between the two chambers despite the conflicting views on how to vote on the Charter change.

“Actually ‘yung word war para sa media yun, para naman medyo masaya tayo, (Actually, the word war was for the media so that we could be amused),” he said.

Alvarez previously warned fellow congressmen that they may receive “zero budget” if they refused to support the federalism initiative of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte but later dismissed his threat as a “joke.”

The House speaker also recently earned the ire of several members of the Senate after urging the public not to vote for senators who are against the shift to federalism.

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