"Who stands to benefit from the sly move to railroad the federalism train at this time?"
The last thing that the Department of Interior and Local Government should be doing at this time when the entire nation is preoccupied with coping with the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping itself busy gathering two million signatures in support of Charter change that would shift from a unitary to a federal system of government.
Why should the department waste its time dealing with a patently political issue when the crying need of the hour is to help the Health department and other agencies of government reduce the spread of the deadly coronavirus, first and foremost?
Why not, for instance, mobilize DILG personnel now spending their precious time gathering signatures for Cha-cha when they could be helping the DOH in contact tracing at the barangay level of suspected and confirmed coronavirus carriers?
Filipinos are dying from the coronavirus and the agency is focusing on the sly on changing the Constitution?
I'm not surprised therefore that our lawmakers are up in arms against this unconscionable display of misplaced priorities.
Senate President Tito Sotto: This is not the time for the DILG to indulge in Charter change, by gathering of two million signatures to support it. “They should focus more on the safety and food security of the people. I’m sure the President has not ordered anything to that effect.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon: The signature campaign is “a total waste of time and resources...While Filipinos have nothing to eat and have lost their jobs, we will force feed them with Cha-cha?...We are in the middle of a pandemic. To talk about Cha-cha is the height of insensitivity.” Activities to promote Cha-cha “will only create distraction, division and unnecessary noise.”
Sen. Joel Villanueva: DILG personnel should augment the efforts of the regional IATF teams by either manning testing facilities or lending their time and effort to assist LGUs rather than pursuing a signature campaign for Charter change.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan: "Addressing the impact of the pandemic both on the health of our citizens and the health of the economy should be our only focus at this point." The DILG signature campaign "is out of touch with current realities and is an insult to millions of our citizens who have lost their jobs, who are experiencing unprecedented hunger and who continue to be threatened by the spread of this incurable disease.”
Sen. Sonny Angara: The DILG’s Charter change campaign is a “waste of time and effort” that could have been used to help LGUs like barangays to combat COVID-19. We need to rethink our priorities and this shouldn’t be one of them.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson: "They should give the President the retirement and rest that he well deserves and let him enjoy his family and his community in Davao City and vice versa. This may be the worst timing for a signature campaign for the purpose of Charter change."
Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the constitutional amendments committee of the House of Representatives: “This is not the right time to push for Charter change through [a] signature campaign, whether physical or online... Charter change is a very contentious issue and we don’t want to divide our people on this matter at this time.”
House Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr.: “With just three session weeks left before the Congress goes on its sine die adjournment, we in the House will do what needs to be done, which is to devote our time and attention to COVID-related measures.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate: The Duterte administration should drop its “obsession with Charter change...Cha-cha, especially now, is a waste of time, effort and the much-needed funds that should be rechanneled to fighting COVID-19."
If the department does not get the message from all this and continues with its misbegotten Cha-cha initiative, I won't be surprised either if our legislators, particularly those from the opposition, will scrutinize the DILG's budget for next year with more than a fine-tooth comb, perhaps even recommend that it be given a P1 budget for 2021.
What's unfortunate is that Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has even described as "fake news" the report by another broadsheet of the sneaky Cha-cha signature campaign. In doing so, he contradicted the confirmation by one of his undersecretaries that indeed the DILG is engaged in the signature gathering campaign, the output of which would be given to Congress by July apparently in time for Duterte's SONA.
We ask these questions: Who's orchestrating the signature gathering campaign? And who stands to benefit from the sly move to railroad the federalism train at this time?