04 September 2005

Speaker Puno, part 2

Assuming that after impeachment is killed, President Arroyo takes seriously her state of the nation promise to convene Congress into a consituent assembly, how can she deliver when the numbers for a conass just aren't there in the senate?
Conventional thinking has it that without the senate's approval conass is dead.
But unconventional thinking says there may be a way.
The law says that two thirds of Congress can convene itself into a consituent assembly in order to amend the constitution. Today's thinking is that "two thirds" means two thirds of the senate and the house voting separately; meaning 161 members of the house and 15 members of the senate must approve.
But there is a legal argument that goes like this: a two thirds vote of congress could mean two thirds of the senate and the house COMBINED. Meaning with 240 reps and 23 senators, you would need 176 members of congress--regardless of which chamber--to approve conass. Under this interpretation, even if every single senator voted against conass, all you need is 176 congressmen and you've got your conass.
Although the framers of the constitution apparently meant two thirds per chamber, the document itself is silent on this specific interpreation of a two thirds majority.
One can expect the senators to argue strenuously against this interpretation, but a determined administration, with the help of a complicit Lower House could turn to the ultimate arbiter of the law to get a clear cut ruling that not even the senators can defy: The Supreme Court.
IF the Supreme Court ruled that two thirds of the congress combined could form a constituent assembly the senate would have no choice.
But would it do that?
The High Court is expected to rule on the merits of the legal arguments put forth by the petitioners and oppositors. But cynics think the justices--- being merely human despite being clothed in papal-like powers on legal infallibility--- would be vulnerable to the same pressure, the same stick-and-carrot maneuvers, that the palace and its allies exert on lawmakers when it wants its way with them
JDV and FVR would have very little direct influence with the Justices, but cynics may argue that most of the High Court would have been appointed by GMA and would thus be susceptible to pressure, coercion, or even positive inducement by her.
Cynics would point out that resigned secretary Cesar Purisima suggested that the TRO on the VAT was issued by the Supreme Court at the behest of Malacanang.
Cynics would point out that the Court, did not address the question about their integrity, but chose instead to cite Purisima on contempt rather than explore the allegation.
Cynics would point to quiet talk in high legal and political circles about how this or that Justice are the sometimes the "ponente" of Malacanang when it comes to making rulings that the palace wants.
Cynics would claim outright that the Supreme Court's decisions in some controversial cases were made to simply please the palace.
Others would say "Damn the cynics."
"Damn the conspiracy theorists. How dare they question the actions of the Supreme Court."
As a character in my favorite movie once said, "I'm shocked! Shocked to find that there is gambling in this establishment!"

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