Mindanawon reps’ vote for HR 1109: 42 of 53

Forty-two out of 53 elected congressional representatives in Mindanao supported the passage of the controversial House Resolution 1109, for the House to convene into a constituent assembly and amend the 1987 Constitution. Mindanao’s 26 provinces and the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga have 55 congressional seats, two of which are presently vacant as Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar was killed in a bombing in 2007 while Misamis Oriental’s 1st district Rep. Danilo Lagbas succumbed to cancer in 2008.

Of 53, 42 signed their support for the resolution whose approval was “railroaded,” according to some representatives but “bullet-trained,” according to Rep. Roilo Golez, at around 11:30 p.m. on June 2, by viva voce.

HR 1109 calls on “members of Congress” to convene into a constituent assembly without the Senate, to propose amendments to the Constitution, among them Nograles’ pet resolution, HR 737, which seeks to lift the constitutional limits on foreign ownership of land in the Philippines.

The signatories to the Resolution pledged “that whatever constitutional changes may be proposed at the appropriate time, preferably after the constitutional issues of construction and interpretation by the Honorable Supreme Court of the justiciable controversy that may arise shall have been resolved with finality that: the term of office of the incumbent President and Vice-President shall not be extended; the term of office of Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Mayors, and other elected officials whose term of office shall expire in 2010 shall not be extended; the term of office of the twelve (12) Senators who were elected in 2007 for a six (6) year term ending in 2013 shall not be shortened and they shall be allowed to finish their term; that there shall be elections in 2010.”

Critics, however, say the resolution is a veiled attempt to stop the May 2010 polls and, in fact, extend the term of office of officials, including President Arroyo.

The Philippine Star on June 3 reported that the President’s “orders to pursue Cha-cha (Charter Change) via con-ass (Constituent Assembly) even without the participation of the Senate were reportedly given at the Manila Hotel after the Lakas-Kampi merger last Thursday before the President left for South Korea and Russia.”

“Additional pork barrel fund allocations were allegedly offered to those who will vote for Resolution 1109,” the report added.

The original author of HR 1109, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, had withdrawn support for it but those pushing HR 1109 said that they merely wanted to force the Supreme Court to rule on whether amending the Constitution requires the vote of three-fourths of all members of Congress, or three-fourths of the House and three-fourths of the Senate.

All three representatives of Davao City, led by Speaker Prospero Nograles, supported the resolution, none of Zamboanga City’s did but one of two from Cagayan de Oro did.

The House of Representatives’ website quoted Nograles as saying he was “ready to face public scorn for acting decisively on House Resolution 1109.”

"Even the best legal minds in our country today don't have a single legal position on how to amend the Constitution through constituent assembly which is one of the modes of amending the Constitution. I'm prepared the bite the bullet and face public scorn if only to convince the Supreme Court that it should now step in and make a clear interpretation of this particular provision of our Constitution," he said.

Stressing that "this cycle of conflict and controversy over cha-cha should be put to rest once-and-for-all," Nograles expressed confidence that the House decision to adopt the resolution would be proven right and will be beneficial for the country in the long term.

"When the majority coalition decided to act decisively on HR 1109, our eyes were focused on the future because we don't live just for today," Nograles said as he lauded the courage and audacity of his coalition partners "for risking possible public scourge for something that is right."

"This is the essence of leadership. What is popular may not be the best of options. I have to lead and be assertive. But I have to be patient, too," the House website quoted him as saying.

Representatives from these provinces supported the resolution: Agusan del Norte (Edelmiro Amante and Jose Aquino II); Camiguin (Pedro Romualdo); Davao del Sur (Franklin Bautista and Marc Douglas Cagas); Davao del Norte (Arrel R. Olaño and Antonio Lagdameo); Davao Oriental (Thelma Almario and Nelson Dayanghirang); Dinagat Islands (Glenda Ecleo); Lanao del Norte (Vicente Belmonte and Abdullah Dimaporo); Lanao del Sur (Pangalian Balindong and Faysah Omaira Dumarpa); Misamis Occidental (Marina Clarete and Herminia Ramiro); Misamis Oriental (Yevgeny Vicente Emano); North Cotabato (Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and Bernardo Piñol); Sultan Kudarat (Datu Pax Mangudadatu and Arnulfo Go); Sulu (Yusop Jikiri and Munir Arbison); Surigao del Norte (Francisco Matugas and Guillermo Romarate); Surigao del Sur (Philip Pichay and Florencio Garay); Tawi-tawi (Nur Jaafar); Zamboanga del Norte (Rosendo Labadlabad, Cecilia G. Jalosjos-Carreon, and Cesar G. Jalosjos); and Zamboanga del Sur (Victor Yu and Antonio H. Cerilles).

Cagayan de Oro’s Rolando Uy supported, as did Maguindanao’s Simeon Datumanong; Candido Pancrudo of Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay’s Ann Hofer.

The following elected representatives did not sign the resolution: Agusan del Sur’s Rodolfo Plaza, Bukidnon’s Teofisto Guingona III and Jose Ma. Zubiri III; Cagayan de Oro’s Rufus Rodriguez; Maguindanao’s Didagen Dilangalen; Sarangani’s Erwin Chiongbian; South Cotabato’s Darlene Antonino-Custodio and Arthur Pingoy; Zamboanga City’s Maria Isabelle Climaco and Erico Basilio Fabian; and Zamboanga Sibugay’s Belma Cabilao.

Dilangalen's name was not on the list of those who signed support for the resolution but he was acknowledged to have been the first to move to end the period of debate even as majority of those opposing the resolution were still waiting for their turn.

Mindanao-based party-list representatives led by Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan did not also support the resolution. (MindaNews)

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