Mediators eyed in ‘cha-cha’ clash

The House moves prompted Senate President Migz Zubiri to blame the pro-cha cha bills for the delay in the IRRs of three laws designed to attract foreign investments.

Leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate are on a collision course over their strong positions on the need to amend the Constitution.

Members of both chambers of Congress now plan to form a body to mediate and resolve the row over cha-cha.

The two chambers have clashed over the urgency of the cha-cha bill, which the Senate said has delayed the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations of some economic measures.

The House, with a supermajority vote, passed House Bill 7352 and Resolution of Both Houses 6, which call for a constitutional convention or con-con to amend the Charter with delegates appointed jointly by the Senate President and the Speaker.

The House move prompted Senate President Migz Zubiri to blame the pro-cha cha bills for the delay in the IRRs of three laws designed to attract foreign investments.

Zubiri was referring to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act that were passed during the last Congress but lack IRRs for their full enactment.

Pure speculation

This, however, prompted Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairperson of the House constitutional amendments panel, to criticize Zubiri’s “pure speculation,” asserting the House was not to blame for the delay as it had no control over the executive agencies tasked to implement the IRR of the three laws.

The pointed exchanges between the members of Congress had worsened recently and calls have been made to settle the matter through mediation.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. wants House and Senate members to meet as he appealed for both chambers to observe parliamentary courtesy.

“There is a word war between the Senate President and the Speaker and chairman Rufus. It can be embarrassing sometimes. We veteran legislators should, whatever our differences of opinion, settle this privately,” Barzaga told Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers on the latter’s radio program on Friday.

Embarrassing dev’t

“It’s not our fault (the delay in the IRRs). Unfortunately, Senate President Zubiri’s insinuation was bad, so our Speaker and chairman Rodriguez responded” Barzaga said.

Zubiri had said cha-cha would require 18 votes in the Senate, and while he wanted to push the proposal, nearly half of the senators are against it.

Barzaga said that if the Senate does not have the numbers, Zubiri could have ordered Senator Robin Padilla to cancel the public hearings on cha-cha, claiming it is just a waste of time.

Zubiri said that amending the Constitution without the President’s backing would be tough to push in the Senate. He also said that amending the Constitution would be costly and time-consuming.

Barbers, as a longtime cha-cha proponent, concurred with Barzaga, saying the House and the Senate should appoint representatives to resolve the dispute immediately.

“I agree. I know that deep inside their (senators’) hearts and minds, they also want it. However, they always go for public opinion. They are too populist,” Barbers said.

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