MANILA, Philippines?With the holidays just around the corner, Speaker Prospero Nograles declared a ceasefire on Charter change (Cha-cha) moves in the House of Representatives to cool down rising opposition from senators and civil society and religious organizations.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday, Nograles said: ?Charter change discussions will begin when we resume session on Jan. 20. Now it?s budget and CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) only.?
Lakas officials have dismissed a House resolution to convene a constituent assembly (Con-ass) as a mere scrap of paper without the Senate?s participation and shifted support to a constitutional convention after 2010.
But Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez of Kampi said President Macapagal-Arroyo?s Kampi party was not about to give up on the assembly initiative.
?We have no problem with the ceasefire on Cha-cha during the Christmas season, but we still believe that Con-ass is worth fighting for,? Suarez said in an interview with the Inquirer.
Two days after a hate-filled rally in Makati City against the move by administration allies to amend the Constitution, Suarez said he could still not understand why some sectors could not see the ?good things? in the Kampi effort.
He said the constituent assembly was the most practical mode of changing the Charter, specifically on lifting foreign restrictions on acquiring agricultural lands to improve productivity and extending the term of elected officials.
Under a proposed amendment, all candidates in the 2010 polls from President to barangay captain would have a five-year term with reelection in order to ensure continuity and less disruptions from midterm elections.
No big deal
Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor of Lakas said his party would accede to the respite.
?It does not think Cha-cha is a big deal. Most congressmen are amused at the overreaction of senators,? he said, referring to the Senate resolution signed by all 23 members last week opposing the House initiative.
Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla said that the P1.415-trillion budget for 2009 should be passed before the end of the year to ensure that the country would weather the global economic downturn.
He added that the House members should also concentrate on the upcoming plenary vote on the proposed extension of the CARP for another five years.
With the moratorium, Nograles hoped that his fellow lawmakers would be able to get a better feel of the ?pulse? of their constituents.
Nograles, who has received flak from Kampi for wavering on the mode of amending the Constitution, said that he preferred to hear from provincial, city and municipal councils all over the country than just ?noise in the streets of Metro Manila.?
?Congress will decide?
?Since the rally was organized by those opposing Charter change, therefore all those who attended the same are one in their opinion and belief,? Nograles said.
?There is a huge possibility that those in the provinces and countryside do not share the same sentiments with that of those in Makati,? he added.
?In the end, it is still Congress that will decide the fate of the Constitution. Only senators and congressmen are empowered to initiate changes in the Charter and no amount of protest rallies can decide whether the Constitution will be amended or not.?