David Suarez, representative of Quezon's 2nd district (photo from his Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President David Suarez has warned his colleagues in the Senate that the window to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution may be closing quickly as the House wants to avoid a side-by-side plebiscite with the midterm elections. 2025 term.

Suarez explained at a press conference on Tuesday that following the president's state of the nation address in July this year, the House would focus on deliberating the 2025 national budget proposal – meaning lawmakers may not have more time to evaluate the Senate resolution of both Chambers (RBH) No. 6.

“That’s why you have to ask them what their schedule is? Because when we get to June or July, it will be budget season for Congress and 99 percent of our time will be dedicated to the budget. So when will we arrive, when will our window be to actually operationalize all of these Charter changes? It will be within a few months”, emphasized Suarez.

According to Suarez, the Senate may have to pick up its pace – holding two or three hearings in a week – especially if the Senate plans to hold hearings outside the city.

Earlier, Senator Sonny Angara, who heads the Senate subcommittee dealing with RBH No.6, said they are considering holding public hearings on changing the Economic Charter outside Metro Manila to ensure more voters can participate and listen to audiences.

Angara said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri is open to the idea of ​​holding hearings in Visayas and Mindanao.

But Suarez said such an approach would take too long.

“It’s going to take a long time, really. I mean, if they plan on doing a roadshow, there are lots of ways to say you're for it and you're not. So I hope this isn't a way for them to say they're not in favor of the year. Because what the President said is clear, he is in favor of amendments to the Charter, specifically on economic provisions. And this does not need delay on the part of the Senate and the Chamber”, said Suarez.

“They can invite, they can hold two, three hearings a week if they want. But you know what, what needs to be done is we need to act at a faster pace […] From my perspective, I don't think that's a prudent way to go through the process, because remember, you mentioned a word subcommittee. In other words, after the subcommittee, this would be taken to the mother committee,” she added.

Suarez also again criticized the Senate for sending mixed signals – referring to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri's initial March deadline for RBH No. 6, while Angara was open to holding negotiations until October 2024.

“On the Senate side, you know it’s mixed signals, huh. SP Migz (Zubiri) said they can finish before Holy Week, now Senator Angara said maybe in October, then some senators said it should not be rushed. So we really can’t maintain a definitive timeline when it comes to when the Senate might act on RBH 6,” he added.

The Chamber and Senate have been at loggerheads recently over discussions about changing the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. After a Popular Initiative (PI) gained momentum, the Senate accused the Chamber of being behind the campaign, even claiming that the PI intends to abolish the Senate, introducing joint voting when deciding on proposed constitutional amendments.

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House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and other House leaders have denied being behind the PI, saying several times that they do not intend to abolish the Senate. Instead, lawmakers reiterated that they were convening a constituent assembly through RBH No. 6 – where two chambers of Congress would vote separately.