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Senate, House bury hatchet

Charles Dantes & Macon Ramos-Araneta

Leaders agree to end word war on Cha-cha, ‘work professionally’

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez have agreed to end the word war between the two chambers of Congress over differing opinions on the Charter change push and to “work professionally” moving forward.

“In front of the President, we shook hands. [This is] good news. The Speaker and I have spoken, and we have agreed to work professionally, to end the squabble and to continue to work for the benefit of the administration and for our countrymen,” Zubiri said in an interview with reporters.

“It is not good if we keep on squabbling and fighting. So, we committed to talk to each other, hopefully, next week for a secondary meeting, because our meeting was just fast – we just shook hands,” he added.

The Speaker has yet to issue a statement on their meeting as of press time.

The two leaders met during the lunch at the Palace hosted by President Marcos for Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, who turned 100 years old yesterday.

The celebration was also attended by former Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Joseph Estrada, Cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress, among others.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. confirmed the meeting in a separate interview, saying he hoped the handshake between Zubiri Romualdez would put an end to the word war between the legislators.

Revilla said President Marcos was there during the handshake, but he was not near the two Congress leaders. “I just hope the handshake was sincere,” he said.

After the handshake, Revilla said he told Zubiri and Romualdez: “O, tama na, ceasefire na! (OK, that’s enough, let’s have a ceasefire).”

Revilla said he received this reply from Zubiri: “Oo. OK naman. Nagkamayan na kami (Yes, we’re OK. We shook hands already).”

Revilla said he felt caught in the middle because he is a party-mate of Romualdez, being chairman of Lakas-CMD, and a colleague to Zubiri at the Senate. He appealed for cooler heads to prevail among his fellow lawmakers moving forward.

Enrile, for his part, asked everyone – including those who attended the lunch – to support the administration of President Marcos.

“I would like to ask you as a special gift to me on my 100th year, to help the President succeed. I ask you and beg you to help for the sake of the country and our people,” Enrile said.

Zubiri acknowledged that Congress members have a lot of work on their hands to ensure the passage of priority legislative measures.

“We agreed to work together to pass legislation for our people and to set aside our rift. There are a lot of pending bills and we have yet to hold a bicameral meeting. So now we’ll be able to call for a bicameral meeting for the Commission on Appointments,” he said.

“I know hurtful words have been exchanged between some senators and congressmen, particularly my majority floor leader, but that does not mean we cannot work professionally,” Zubiri said.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and House leader Elizaldy Co earlier traded accusations after the former dismissed the challenge issued by Zamboanga City Rep. Mannix Dalipe for senators to declare their positions on Charter change.

“Who is he?” was Villanueva’s response that did not sit well with Co, triggering a word war between the two lawmakers.

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