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House seeks to strike out ‘judicial overreach’

The House panel drafting the Federal Constitution had sought to clip the powers of the judiciary by revising a provision on the Constitution that legislators described as constituting “judicial overreach.” 

Sought removed was a provision in the Constitution that gave the judiciary the power to determine “grave abuse of discretion” in government actions and policies.
The House subcommittee cited “judicial overreach” in a phrase from Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which stated that courts can “determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.”
The removal of the provision was cited by former President Aquino for his being open to changing the 1987 Constitution because of “judicial overreach” in the aftermath of the 2014 Supreme Court (SC) decision nullifying certain acts of the Executive creating the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

Aquino said in 2014 that he was considering charter change after the SC ruling which he had criticized.
The President then said the judiciary appears checking on the executive and legislative branches “without restraint,” and is using such powers more often.
In opposing the stand of Aquino, then Vice President Jejomar Binay, a lawyer, said the provision “was included precisely to prevent a situation where the judiciary bends to the will of one branch, or of one man as was the case during martial law.”
Binay added that he “firmly believes” that a democracy requires all branches of government “to respect each one’s independence and recognize each one’s powers.”
Under the proposed revision of the House subcommittee the provision would instead read, “Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable.”
Retired Supreme Court justice Vicente Mendoza and Integrated Bar of the Phillipines (IBP) National President Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said the revision would constitute a significant change in the powers of the judiciary.
He added the deletion of the portion may render the Supreme Court “powerless.”
“It lessens the power of the judiciary to inquire into acts of other agencies,” he added.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said the proposal was not final and will be subjected to public debate.
Con-ass okay queried
A member of the House minority bloc also vowed to continue questioning the manner by which the House approved the resolution which calls fo the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass).
Senior Deputy Minority Leader, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, said the House Majority unashamedly exercised its tyranny of numbers by employing what he termed a “ridulous” House rule, which paves the way for voting on an issue after three speeches for and two speeches against the matter have been delivered.
“But what happened Tuesday night was a distorted interpretation of a distorted rule,” Atienza said during a pres briefing.
“We were deliberating on the issue, not making speeches. And then when two have already raised their questions, they moved for the division of the House,” said Atienza.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s very undemocratic. We have more than 290 members in the House of Representatives and they will only allow two lawmakers to raise questions? And they were not even delivering speeches as the provision of the House rules provide but questioning,” he stressed.
The other night, voting viva voce, the House adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 09 entitled: “Concurrent Resolution To Constitute The Congress Of The Philippines As a Constituent Assembly For The Purpose Of Proposing Amendments To, Or Revision Of, The 1987 Constitution”.
As described in the resolution, the Constitution is the fundamental and paramount law which provides the framework of governance, as well as the instrument of the people to secure their rights and promote the common welfare.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the authors of the resolution, said recent events show there is a need to introduce reforms in the present Constitution for it to be responsive to the exigencies of the times.
“This includes the need to provide a long-term solution to the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, to spur economic regional development in the countryside, and provide impetus to much-needed socio-economic and political reforms,” Alvarez said.
He said the overwhelming victory of President Rodrigo Duterte, who stood on a platform for a shift from a unitary to a federal system of government, among others, did not only sustain but likewise affirmed the clamor and sentiment from a broad cross-section of society seeking a review of certain provisions in the 29-year old Philippine Constitution to make it more attuned and responsive to the demands of present conditions and economic realities.
Atienza said he is in full support of Duterte’s call for change, including amending the Constitution, but he won’t support any move even by his colleagues to railroad the act.
“This is a clear railroading. And if that’s the way, they want to do it, we might as well stop deliberating on the matter and give them what they want,” Atienza said.
“But then, the House would be better off being converted into a Railroad company and led by an engineer, not lawmakers,” said Atienza.
A the same press briefing, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin aired opposition to the interpretation of the House leaders of a joint voting for both Houses of Congress.
“We have a bicameral legislative body. So, when we vote on issues, whatever they may be, we do it separately,” said Garbin.
“That’s the essence of a bicameral congress. If there are differences, we go to the bicameral committee,” he said.

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