House Speaker Arroyo OK with Congress voting separately on charter change

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 1) — House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will do everything she can so the country could shift to a federal form of government – even if it means agreeing with senators' preference that both houses of Congress vote separately on constitutional amendments.

The former President, who also pushed for federalism toward the end of her term, said Wednesday that the only "realistic" way to end the current impasse on charter change is to resolve this contentious issue.

"You remember we [had] the same stalemate on voting separately and voting together and a few years later we are in the same stalemate," Arroyo told reporters. "We should move forward and the way to move forward is to agree to voting separately."

"Better to move forward and achieve something rather than be stubborn and achieve nothing," she added.

Arroyo earlier said the House of Representatives will wait for the Senate's decision in amending the present charter, a stance that is different from that of her predecessor, Pantaleon Alvarez, who said that the House would push through with revising the Constitution with or without the Senate.

Arroyo unseated Alvarez as House Speaker after more than 200 lawmakers voted for a change in leadership on July 23, the same day President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his State of the Nation Address.

During Alvarez's term, the House of Representatives approved a resolution that will convene Congress as a constituent assembly, but the Senate has yet to pass their measure. As of now, a resolution calling on Congress to convene into a constituent assembly is still pending at the Senate committee level.

The Senate has yet to decide on pertinent issues: Whether there is a need to amend the Constitution, and if so, whether it will be done by a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly.

In a constituent assembly, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall convene and decide on constitutional amendments themselves. A constitutional convention, meanwhile, requires nationwide elections to select delegates who will draft the constitutional amendments.

Another point of contention if Congress opts for a constituent assembly is whether the House and Senate will vote jointly or separately on the proposed revisions.

All 23 senators have said they wanted to make their vote count in a separate voting, and not be irrelevant in a joint voting with 292 representatives.

Prime Minister Arroyo?

But Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Wednesday told CNN Philippines charter change is "as good as dead" at the Senate because senators believe Arroyo is eyeing the Prime Minister post.

In the draft constitution of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendment, there are two leaders of the executive department: The president, who oversees the government, and the prime minister, who runs the government.

Arroyo has denied any further ambitions for power, even calling these claims "black propaganda."