Press Release
September 23, 2006


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, warned that charter change in our country should be made by civilian authorities, and not by the military.

Santiago issued the statement, after Thailand military coup leaders reportedly announced that they would change the Thai charter.

Thailand has been convulsed by a military coup detat, and the coup leaders have reportedly said that they will change their charter. That should be a strong warning to our democracy. We should place charter change in the hands of civilian authorities, Santiago said.

The senator, a constitutional law expert, said that our Constitution provides for three methods of charter change, all under civilian authorities: by Congress acting as a Constituent Assembly (Consa), by a Constitutional Convention, and by a peoples initiative, with the latter limited only to amendments and not to revision.

Santiago recently announced that she is in favor of calling a joint session of Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly.

She argued that the constitutional requirement for charter change of three-fourths vote of all the members of Congress means Congress voting jointly.

Joint voting requires three-fourths of the total Congress membership of 259, or 194 votes.

She said that joint voting is different from separate voting, which would mean three-fourths votes of the House of Representatives, plus three-fourths votes of the Senate.

But Santiago stressed that because of a Supreme Court decision, the House of Representatives alone cannot supply the 194 votes, and that the votes should come from both representatives and senators, in any proportion.

There are at least five other provisions of our Constitution which specify that Congress should vote separately. The provision on Consa does not include the phrase voting separately. Therefore, there is no need to get three-fourths vote of the Senate, as long as a reasonable number of senators participate in raising the 194 votes needed, she said.

Santiago said that if the House of Representatives introduces a joint resolution calling for a Consa, she will sign the resolution and participate in the Consa.

I would even be willing to defend my position in the Supreme Court, said Santiago, whose 2-volume work on constitutional law is widely used by justices and law professors.

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