Opposition leader ambivalent about Charter changeBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines—House minority leader Danilo Suarez agreed with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. there is a valid reason to rewrite the 1987 Constitution but said the move could “open the floodgates for other amendments.”
Suarez told INQUIRER.net Friday that although he believed there are economic provisions in the Charter that need to be amended, there was little time left to thoroughly discuss them.
“Also, the President should be convinced that there is a need for Charter change. If there is no green light from the President then (discussions would go nowhere),” Suarez said. “It also needs to seek the approval of the people.”
Without the approval of Aquino and the people, he said that all talks on Charter change were “just noise.”
The minority leader said that the worries of those opposing Charter change, like Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares who expected amendments on term limits, were not unfounded, despite assurances from leaders of both chambers of Congress that changes would not veer away from the economic provisions.
House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II recently said that it was expected for those opposing Charter change to bring up “scare tactics on changing term limits” and Belmonte insisted that they were pushing for changes only to the economic provisions of the Constitution.
Suarez explained that such an assurance could be realized if Belmonte could shepherd lawmakers into focusing only on changes to the economic provisions and not opening discussions on other portions of the Constitution.
If lawmakers can keep to those provisions, San Juan Representative Joseph Victor Ejertico expects Charter change to help the nation be “abreast with our Asian neighbors.”
He said that the Constitution was written at a time “there was no such thing as globalization, internet and WTO. It has to be amended so that it will be tuned to the changing times.”
Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) Representative Sherwin Tugna said that the amendments could sail through if they get Aquino’s nod and keep to the economic provisions.
But Colmenares deemed the Congress’ possible venture into Charter change as a “dangerous” and “baseless” move, believing that extensions to term limits would be lobbied once lawmakers discuss the amendments.
“Amending the Constitution cannot be the solution but in fact will only worsen the problem and increase poverty. The Constitution can be changed 10 times this year and it will not stamp out poverty as long as the same political and economic relations that exists today remains,” he said.
While some have chosen their sides on the issue, other lawmakers like Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara thought it better to keep an open mind for now, while “the debates are still taking shape and the proposals are still somewhat general.”