Senators dance to different beats of Cha-chaBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Reelectionist senators who joined the First Inquirer Senate Forum on “How does the Senate really work” expressed varying degrees of openness to the proposal to amend the Constitution.
So far, proposed amendments to the Constitution have been divided into two categories: economic, which includes increasing foreign ownership of businesses and the deletion of the provision banning foreign ownership of land; and political, such as doing away with term limits on elective positions.
There are also disagreements to the mode for Charter change (Cha-cha): constitutional convention, constituent assembly, or people’s initiative.
Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, president of PDP-Laban, expressed his objections to letting foreigners own land. “There are still so many landless Filipinos,” he said.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano wanted a “thorough study” of proposed changes and warned of possible divisions if some sectors insisted on unpopular political amendments.
While Cayetano and Sen. Loren Legarda indicated openness to Cha-cha, they agreed that in lieu of this, laws could be improved or strengthened so as to preserve the 1987 Constitution and save the government from an exhausting overhaul of the country’s basic law.
However, Sen. Francis Escudero considered the Constitution as “a living document … not etched in stone like the Ten Commandments” and that a regular examination should determine the applicability of its provisions or identify the sections that should be amended.
Pimentel said PDP-Laban’s “basic objective is the adoption of a federal system of government that cannot be done without Cha-cha.”
He echoed Escudero’s observation that the incumbent 23 senators have always been saddled with the work similarly done by more than 280 members of the House of Representatives in the bicameral set-up.
Escudero said he would like to consider a parliamentary form of government.
But Pimentel said allowing foreigners to own land in the Philippines could be a “divisive and emotional issue.”
Cayetano said this should make it necessary for a multi-sectoral consultation on “what policies should be changed and whether there really is a need for Cha-cha.” He said the nation must determine whether Cha-cha would be key to making economic development trickle down to the grassroots.
Escudero believes the issue of foreign media ownership has become superfluous “when I can watch CNN or read Newsweek in my bedroom.”