If there’s one distinguishing feature of the 19th Congress that stands out at this juncture, it’s their diametrically opposed stand on the issue of Charter change.
The Senate, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, is not really that enthusiastic about pushing Charter change at this time, since he believes almost half of its members are against it.
Moreover, any move to amend or revise the Constitution requires three-fourths of its membership, or 18 votes.
And then there’s President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who has gone on record as saying that he’s against it as well.
Over at the House of Representatives, the mood is upbeat.
An overwhelming majority of its members has approved House Bill 7352 calling for a “hybrid” Constitutional Convention composed of both elected delegates and those appointed by the president.
The main Charter change proponent in the House, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, said the chamber’s proposed Resolution of Both Houses 6 would have no effect until approved by the Senate and that HB 7352 still had no resolution to implement it.
As things now stand, therefore, with the Senate and the Chief Executive himself lukewarm to the idea of changing the fundamental law to reflect changes both in the domestic sphere as well as in the global arena, Charter change looks dead in the water.
The Senate committee on Constitutional amendments, chaired by non-lawyer and former action star Sen. Robin Padilla, has embarked on a nationwide “consultation caravan” that will conduct hearings in the cities of Davao, Baguio, and Cebu.
But this so-called “consultation caravan” could prove to be just another waste of precious public funds as his credentials as an expert on the 1987 Constitution are, well, suspect.
Popularity in the box-office in the past will not automatically convince people that Charter change is necessary at this time.
While Zubiri has expressed his personal support for the bid to revise the Constitution, he has said he is concerned that prolonging the debates on charter change will only let Congress “lose its focus,” or give priority to urgent legislative matters.
“What we want to help are the people we have not reached through meaningful legislation because if we spend all our time on Charter change debates, but at the end of the day there is no vote … we are wasting a lot of time and effort; we are wasting a lot of energy and funding discussing a measure that we don’t have a vote on,” he said.
But the last word on the issue would no doubt be that of the Chief Executive himself: “It’s not a priority for me because there are many things that need to be done … there are so many other things that we need to do first.”