MANILA, Philippines -- Lawmakers are ?slowly but steadily? moving towards amending the Constitution, a member of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.
Representative Victor Ortega of La Union?s 1st district and chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments said an informal survey he conducted among members of the chamber indicated it was ?safe to assume that the general consensus in Congress [is] to change the Constitution.?
At a hearing of his committee, Ortega presented the results of his survey, which showed that 115 (94.26 percent) of the 123 respondents were in favor of amending the Constitution.
However, opposition solons questioned the results and intent of Ortega?s survey, which he bared a day after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued a new call for Charter change, ostensibly to establish a federal government and pave the way for lasting peace in Mindanao.
Leftist lawmakers called Arroyo?s proposal a ploy for her ?perpetuation in power? and the removal of protectionist provisions in the Charter.
?The results [of the survey] are interesting but I am not surprised. I am concerned [about] the pronouncements made by the President and if it will have any bearing on our committee hearings,? said Bayan Muna (People First) Representative Teddy Casiño.
?While we support the Moro people's struggle for self-determination, we will not allow their legitimate cause to be used as a means for Arroyo to inflict far-reaching damage on the people and the country by staying in power and removing the remaining protectionist provisions in the Constitution,? a joint statement signed by Casiño, fellow Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.
Representative Edelmiro Amante of Agusan del Norte?s 2nd district, an administration ally, called Arroyo's pronouncement a ?peripheral? issue and said committee members would not be swayed by her call.
?The basic issue is if we should amend the Constitution and the extension of Arroyo's term is just a peripheral issue,? he said.
Representative Roilo Golez of Parañaque?s 2nd district also questioned the survey, saying that, for it to be reliable it has to be ?specific. Not all [the respondents] are aware of the proposed amendments to the Constitution.?
Ortega?s survey showed 62 respondents favor Charter change through a constitutional assembly.
On the other hand, 89 respondents were in favor of shifting to a parliamentary form of government compared to 56 who voted for federalism, while 70 respondents preferred to amend the Constitution the 2010 presidential elections.
While Ortega admitted his survey did not reflect the sentiments of all members of the House, he said the results meant one could ?safely assume that the general consensus in Congress? was that the Constitution would be amended.
He also said opposition to Charter change from members of the House are to be expected. ?There will always be objections on the part of the people,? he said.
But Ortega said he conducted the survey on his own and was not pressured by an individual or a group.
?I assure you that when I initiated this informal survey, I initiated it on my own, 100 percent. And results came out even before [Arroyo] made the pronouncements? proposing Charter change towards federalism, he said.
Several bills on Charter change have been filed in the House, whose members are torn between amending the Constitution through a constitutional assembly of the two chambers of Congress or through elected delegates to a constitutional convention.
Members of the committee on constitutional amendments are expected to vote by the end of the month on whether to amend the Constitution or not.