Senators nix ‘no-el’ as step to charter change | Inquirer News

Senators nix ‘no-el’ as step to charter change

/ 07:00 AM July 26, 2018

NO TO NEW CHARTER Protesters denounce moves to change the Constitution as they march along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Monday before President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. —RICHARD A. REYES

The Senate stands solid against any move to postpone next year’s midterm elections to give way to the amendment of the Constitution for a shift to federalism.

The senators are also agreed that the proposal for a change to federalism should not be rushed.


But they are not permanently closing the door to the amendment of the Constitution.


They will allow the matter to be heard on the committee on constitutional amendments and put through intensive deliberation.

Full-chamber caucus


These are among the agreements the senators reached during a full-chamber caucus on Tuesday afternoon.

“Both the majority and minority are united in not rushing cha-cha [charter change] and to have elections in 2019 as scheduled,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

“Cha-cha” has become the code word for moves to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution, which politicians have been pushing since the 1990s to scrap term limits or change the form of government to federal or parliamentary.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate was ready to pass a resolution opposing the postponement of the midterms if push comes to shove.

“None of us would agree to no-el,” Zubiri told reporters, using a shortcut for “no elections.”

“If the No-el talks will intensify, we are ready to come up with a sense of the Senate resolution, and I’m sure we will have 100 percent [support],” he added.

No to Con-ass

The Senate also decided not to agree to a constituent assembly (Con-ass) if there is no express commitment that both chambers of Congress will vote separately on proposed amendments to the Constitution.

As for the proposed federal constitution submitted by Malacañang to Congress, this will be heard on the committee on constitutional amendments chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

No timeline was set for the completion of the deliberations.

Pangilinan said a thorough study of the proposed federal Constitution was needed because of its far-reaching political and economic implications.

“The responsible and appropriate response is not to rush Charter change,” he said.

Several senators expressed misgivings about “infirmities” in the proposal, Zubiri said.

Local Gov’t Code

“This is a total overhaul of the system in the country. All agreed that this has to be studied and debated extensively. Definitely, we will not rush this,” he said.

From his reading of the situation, Recto believes that a “great majority” of the senators are against amending the Constitution.

He said he himself was against the proposed shift to federalism.

“Federalism will add to the bureaucracy, red tape, more taxes, greater tension in government, will promote dynasty, bad for economy, will result in credit downgrade, etc.,” he said.

Recto said the country would be better off amending the Local Government Code, implementing the Supreme Court decision giving a higher internal revenue allotment to local governments, and focusing on creating jobs and lowering the inflation rate.

Sen. Bam Aquino said it would be better to amend the Local Government Code to give greater powers to local governments, one of the objectives of the proposed change to federalism.

Aquino is part of a group looking into proposed amendments to the Local Government Code.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that Charter change is not needed to give local leaders what they want,” he said.

Long wait for GMA

Aquino also said the House of Representatives should wait for the Senate to complete its hearings on proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will have to wait quite some time because the Senate wants to hear all parties on the matter, he said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said there was a “very slim” chance that the chamber would approve any move to amend the Constitution this year.

Sotto said none of the senators included Charter change measures when they submitted their top three priority bills.

Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had pushed for the postponement or cancellation of next year’s elections to give Congress more time to work on the proposed shift to federalism.

She wants to be PM?

Alvarez had also floated the idea of a constituent assembly without the Senate to amend the Constitution.

He lost the speakership to Arroyo in a coup that was supported by the House majority on Monday.

Arroyo has said she will carry out President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda, which includes the shift to federalism.

But former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. does not see the House rushing work on the draft federal Charter.

“I’m rather optimistic . . . but it doesn’t mean that it will be passed overnight,” Pimentel, a member of Malacañang’s consultative committee that wrote the draft Constitution, said at a news forum in San Juan City.

“A lot of people have expressed opposition [to the proposal] and for me, they should be heard,” he said.

Constitutional law professor Antonio La Viña said it would be difficult for the draft Charter to clear the House with Arroyo at the helm.

“I think she comes with serious baggage with people thinking that she will just use Cha-cha to run again, since she is on her last term, or to switch to a parliamentary system where she can become prime minister,” said La Viña, a former dean of Ateneo School of Government.

He said the House could make changes to the draft Charter, including providing for a parliamentary federal form of government.

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“It has been [Arroyo’s] advocacy for a long time . . . It might be the direction of Cha-cha,” he said. With a report from Jhesset O. Enano

TAGS: federalism, Nene Pimentel, No-El, Ralph Recto, Senate

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