Ex-CJ Puno: SC can't intervene if Senate rejects con-ass

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — The Supreme Court cannot step in should the Senate reject the House of Representatives' resolution to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass) to propose amendments to the Constitution, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno said Wednesday.

During the Senate's joint committee hearings on proposals for Charter change, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked Puno if the Supreme Court cannot review a possible Senate rejection of the House resolution on con-ass.

Puno replied: "Right, your Honor. It is a political decision and the Senate will only be answerable to the people."

Pressing the issue further, Drilon asked if the Senate's non-action on the measure can be raised before the Supreme Court.

"If the Senate does not act on the resolution by the House, no question can be raised in the Supreme Court?" he asked.

"I believe so, your Honor," Puno said.

And should there be a deadlock between the Senate and House on the method to amend the Constitution, Puno said this as well cannot be raised before the Supreme Court.

He said that while the Constitution expanded the Supreme Court's judicial power to review acts of government showing grave abuse of discretion, it does not have the authority to rule on political issues.

"Even with that expanded definition of judicial power, the Supreme Court still does not have jurisdiction to accommodate and decide questions that are political character," Puno said.

The decision on which mode should be used to amend the Constitution is a "question addressed only to the wisdom of the people," he added.

The House on Tuesday night adopted Concurrent Resolution No. 9, which seeks to convene the two chambers of Congress into a con-ass.

Some senators opposed con-ass as voting will be done jointly, which will make them irrelevant. The 23 senators will easily be out voted by 293 House members.

In an ambush interview, Drilon said the House resolution to amend the Constitution will not prosper if the Senate rejects or does not act on it.

"If the committee recommends that the process is a constitutional convention and the same is adopted in the plenary, then that effectively stops the Cha-Cha train of the House and the Supreme Court cannot tell us, 'No, it should be a constituent assembly.' In the view of Chief Justice Puno, that is beyond the power of the Supreme Court to do," he said.

Drilon said senators held a caucus on Tuesday and all agreed that voting on Charter change must be done separately.

The Constitution provides two methods to introduce changes to the Constitution -- the con-ass or a constitutional convention whose members are elected through districts.