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Monday, May 20, 2024

Senators still cool to ‘Cha-cha’; Gonzales defends House push

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Senators remain cool to proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III.

Pimentel noted that 2024 “is the better time to do this so that if the Constitution won’t be changed by that year, new senators would come in the next year.”

He maintained that voting on the issue should be done separately by both houses of Congress.

While a Constitutional Convention is more expensive, “it is the better mode of changing our Constitution,” Pimentel stressed.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. downplayed the Senate’s rejection of House efforts to review the Charter.

The House of Representatives-initiated Charter change jibes with President Marcos’ “Bagong Pilipinas” theme, which also needs a new charter that should replace the 36-year-old constitution, since it was crafted during the turbulent years of the first Marcos administration, he said.

Gonzales defended the House initiatives to amend the Charter from criticisms the move has the blessing from the Executive branch.

“This is a legislative work, and that’s a different body, that’s the Executive department. I think the legislative will be the one to initiate this,” Gonzales said in defending President Marcos from criticisms he may have wanted to extend his six-year term.

The only objective of the House is to have a new Charter, the Pampanga lawmaker said.

Senator Imee Marcos said President Marcos – her younger brother — said it is not yet time to Cha-cha “because we need to focus on jobs and lowering the price of rice and other goods.”

The Senate minority leader also pointed out it was “always timely to revisit the 1987 Constitution as long as the motives are honest and honorable.”

“Like advocating for structural change in the government system,” he added.

Pimentel, a former Senate President, said he was open to the idea of shifting the government form to federalism.

“But if the plan is to sell to foreigners our land and mineral resources, I will strongly object to it,” he said.

Senator Francis Escudero said anyone wanting to change the Constitution should first be clear about what specific procedure will they follow or take in amending the Charter, and what are their specific proposals or amendments vis-a-vis the 1987 Constitution.

He said no position for or against Cha-cha can be made without these specifics.

“Not mere ambiguous and general intent or statements as a starting point for any discussion to amend the Constitution… at least insofar as I am concerned,” Escudero stressed.

“There is no perfect or imperfect time to review the Constitution but, as I said, they should be clear and unequivocal in regard to my two queries,” he added.

The House of Representatives is keen on pursuing Charter change next year, with focus on amending economic provisions to make it “more attuned, sensitive and responsive to the times,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said on Tuesday.

Gonzales also stressed: “Bagong Konstitusyon ng Bagong Pilipinas. So, that’s our objective: Bagong Konstitusyon ng Bagong Pilipinas. How can we work in a new environment under a new Philippines when its constitution is still or remains old?”

He added the House hopes to present the new Charter Change to Mr. Marcos before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address on July 22 next year, just a year before the mid-term and senatorial elections on May 2025.

“I think we can get the target, I think before the SONA if ever. I think we can get it with the coordination with other congressmen and members of the Upper House. So, we’ll try to pursue it (Cha-cha) next year, we will tackle the amendments to the constitution,” Gonzales said.

The Pampanga solon said legislators will not be limited to any mode in the charter, saying the lower chamber is open to all modes – people’s initiative, constitutional convention or constituent assembly where senators and congressmen will join forces to introduce changes.

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