Senate won’t act on federal charter bill

Senators from both the majority and the minority see no future for the draft federal Constitution in the 17th Congress, which sits only until next July.

Despite the House of Representatives rushing the proposed federal charter, Senate President Vicente Sotto III reiterated on Wednesday that the Senate had no time for this.


“We have no time to take that up. They should have rushed the budget so that we could have taken that up,” Sotto said.

Unnecessary, lacking support


Sen. Francis Escudero also sees little chance for the draft federal charter to be approved “for lack of material time, necessity and support.”

“But I think this should not stop the House from approving whatever bills and resolutions it wants to pass and vice versa. Interchamber courtesy dictates that,” Escudero said.

The House could also come up with a draft charter that differs or deviates from the one submitted by Malacañang’s consultative committee, he said.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon bluntly described the House effort as a “waste of time.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who chairs the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said there was no way the Senate would rush any discussion of amendments to the Constitution.

“It is a very important discussion that must not be rushed or hastily completed,” Pangilinan said.

It would be better to leave deliberations on the matter to the 18th Congress, he said.


The people’s real concerns

Pangilinan noted that only 3 percent of the population say that amending the Constitution is important.

“The prices of goods, higher salaries and jobs are what people are concerned about and not Cha-cha,” he said, using a shortcut for “charter change,” meaning amending the Constitution.

“If those in the administration cannot agree on what to change in the Constitution, why force it on the people?” he added.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading the Resolution of Both Houses of Congress No. 15 proposing a draft federal charter.

The period before second reading is usually the most contentious because of the interpellations and amendments that precede the voting.

The third reading vote is usually ministerial.

Form of gov’t

The resolution proposes a presidential-bicameral-federal system of government.

It has no provision against political dynasties.

Opposition members of the House decried the rush to pass the measure, which was approved through voice voting.

Even known political allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, among them Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza, had warned against the apparent haste in adopting the resolution.

But Arroyo defended the passage of the resolution on Wednesday, insisting that the proposal, which she authored along with several of her colleagues, had undergone deliberation of the 292-member chamber.

“It’s part of the democratic process. There was a debate, it was voted on and we sent it to [House members],” Arroyo told reporters.

Federal states

The Speaker also reiterated that she was not involved in drafting the proposal to lift the term limits of elected officials, saying she was concerned only about the provisions on the creation of federal states.

“The others are all contributions of the other congressmen. They should answer for themselves,” Arroyo said.

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, whose several attempts to introduce amendments to the proposal were blocked by administration lawmakers, said his colleagues’ decision only affirmed the “self-serving, deeply antidemocratic and unpatriotic character” of the House.

He, however, remained optimistic that the Senate would torpedo the Arroyo-led charter change initiative, which critics warned might help install her as prime minister.

“In my view, no law is violated [with] the mere passage by the House. What it does is to keep the charter change option in play,” Tinio said.

Atienza urged his colleagues to be extra cautious in tinkering with the Constitution, insisting that there was “absolutely no reason to rush this very important measure that will impact all of us.”

Don’t be like blind cows

“Let us not be like blind cows being stampeded over a cliff. We should study this issue very thoroughly. It is impossible to discuss this crucial measure in just the few session days left,” he said.

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Charter change, federal charter bill, federalism, Francis Escudero, Senate, Vicente Sotto III
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