Defensor lauds Cha-cha shelving

A party-list lawmaker on Friday welcomed the move of the leadership of the House of Representatives to abort the planned approval of his Charter change resolution before the Lenten break.

With this, “the House leadership’s Cha-cha initiative is now virtually dead and is headed for the graveyard,” Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor said.

“Sensing public condemnation if he pushed for it amid rising coronavirus infection numbers, Speaker Velasco aborted the planned approval of his Cha-cha resolution before the Lenten break,” Defensor said in a statement.

A member of the Independent Bloc formed by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, he said he doubts the House will have enough time to pursue economic Charter Change.

“When we reconvene on May 17, we will be in session for only nine days before we go on our annual sine die or mandatory adjournment on June 4. I don’t think the leadership will try to have the resolution passed during the nine-day sessions. Even if the House would approve it, the Senate would no longer have time for it,” he explained.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. shared Defensor’s view, noting that “now is the wrong time to pursue it as this highly divisive issue would only sidetrack national focus and attention from the country’s exigent concerns of pandemic response and economic recovery.”

Instead of economic Cha-cha, Villafuerte, also a member of Cayetano’s Independent Bloc, legislators should initiate or join information campaigns in their districts to persuade would-be vaccinees that the vaccines are safe and are necessary to eventually contain the pandemic and accelerate the country’s recovery from the ruinous economic impact of COVID-19.

He pointed out that a faster vaccine takeup is necessary for the country to attain herd immunity, which, in turn, would be the only way to check the pandemic, restore business confidence and boost consumer spending, and drive the economy back to its -pre-pandemic growth momentum.  

Villafuerte pointed out he has long advocated for constitutional reform, particularly the lifting of the Charter’s economic provisions that restrict foreign participation in certain businesses but not at this time of pandemic.

With the OCTA Research group fretting that the “serious surge” could drive the infection rate to 11,000 per day in the face of last week’s COVID-19 reproduction number (RO) of 2.03 in Metro Manila (it has since gone down to RO 1.9), Villafuerte said: “There is more reason for vaccination program implementers to speed up the jab rollout in the hope of meeting the government’s original target of immunizing 70 million Filipinos or 100 percent of the adult population by yearend.”

Meanwhile, Defensor said the 18th Congress may not have the material time to debate extensively on economic Charter change. He said the first few months of the third regular session that starts on July 26 will be devoted to deliberations on and approval of the 2022 national budget.

“Then comes the period for the filing of certificates of candidacy for next year’s elections on Oct. 1-8. After that, lawmakers and the public in general would already be on campaign-election mode,” he said.

“Clearly, the pandemic and lack of time militate against the Speaker’s Charter amendment effort,” Defensor stressed.

Instead of economic Charter change, Defensor said the House leadership must pursue -- for the remainder of the life of the 18th Congress -- “measures that would hasten economic recovery and help our people, like our proposal for a new round of financial assistance to the poor and those that would further improve governance.”

“Cha-cha is not a silver bullet that will make our economic problems go away,” he said.

Topics: House of Representatives , Charter change , Lenten break , Michael Defensor
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