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Bicol solons ask Senate to stop ‘PI’ probe, pledge support for Speaker

Maricel Cruz

A group of legislators from the Bicol Region on Saturday called on the Senate to stop its inquiry into the suspended People’s Initiative (PI) and work instead on passing priority pieces of legislation.

Camarines Sur Reps. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Miguel Luis Villafuerte, and Tsuyoshi Anthony Horibata, and Bicol Saro Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan made the statement in support of the House leadership headed by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez.

They asked the Senate to instead focus on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6, filed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, which aims for reforms in Articles 12, 14, and 16 of the Constitution, addressing restrictions on foreign ownership in public utilities, educational institutions, and the advertising industry.

The Bicolano legislators said the Senate hearings on the PI process, “initiated by private groups long yearning for Charter Change, in which the House of Representatives and its leaderships have surprisingly and unfortunately become the subject of the inquiry, contravene inter-parliamentary courtesy and reek of undue interference by members of one chamber in the official acts of legislators belonging to the other.”

“In a bicameral setup such as the Philippine Congress, respect, civility and decorum among members of both chambers forbid legislators belonging to one body to be investigating those of the other,” Villafuerte said.

“(This is) more so when there is actually nothing to investigate about such peers. There is no room for such a breach in the spirit of bicameralism as members of the Senate and the House are co-equals in our National Legislature,” the lawmaker, president of the National Unity Party, said.

The congressmen said that ending the Senate inquiry “now would be a sign of good faith in the Congress’ long-sought joint push for RHB 6.”

This would put in place “an excellent working environment conducive to the prompt yet deliberate passage by the Senate of its own version of this constitutional reform bill, and the House’s concurrence with it, preferably before the lawmakers go on their March 23 to April 28 Lenten break,” they said.

The House unanimously passed its version of RHB 6 in March 2023 yet, and Zubiri, after meeting with President Marcos on the issue of Charter Change last month, announced the creation of a subcommittee chaired by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara that would study amendments limited to the economic provisions of the Constitution, beginning this February.

Zubiri said the Senate aims to pass RHB 6 before the break. Romualdez then welcomed Zubiri’s announcement and said the House would support the version of RHB 6 to be passed by the Senate.

This developed as Deputy Speaker David Suarez said the Senate investigation into the alleged bribery in the People’s Initiative is turning into a witch hunt after the committee failed to secure any testimony supporting bribery claims.

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