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Cha-Cha revival strikes discordant note — solon

A veteran politician questioned the revival of the move to amend the 1987 Constitution.

According to Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, the renewed Charter Change initiative in Congress will not fly due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Defensor said he is open to a review of the 34-year-old Constitution drafted by a commission and approved by the people in a plebiscite during the first Aquino administration.

“I am for it, but the question is timing, and today, while we are still battling the Covid-19 pandemic and not achieving much success, is not the right time,” he said.

In a separate statement, Chairman of the House committee on Constitutional amendments and Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. confirmed that Cha-Cha hearing will resume next week.

Garbin said there are at least three measures seeking to amend the Constitution pending in the committee, which include the proposal of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to change some economic provisions.

In the Senate, neophyte Senators Francisco Tolentino and Ronaldo dela Rosa are pushing for constitutional amendments.

According to Garbin, the committee is eyeing restrictive economic provisions as most of these do not conform anymore to the needs of time.

Velasco filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 proposing to amend Articles II, XIV and XVI which covers provisions that deal with the economy.

The House leader underscored the need to amend said provisions “in order to fully transform” economic growth into “inclusive and solidary progress among Filipinos.”

Velasco and Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez filed separate resolutions proposing to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in articles addressing the national patrimony and economy.

Velasco’s Resolution of Both House No 2 seeks to amend economic provisions of the Constitution under Article XII, XIV and XVI to allow foreign ownership of land, educational institutions, public utilities and mass media companies.

It also seeks to lift the 40-percent foreign ownership restriction on corporations.

But Defensor warned Congress that Cha-Cha is a divisive issue and people would accuse members of being insensitive to the suffering of the people in these trying times.

“Cha-ha is not the solution to the pandemic and economic hardship our people have to grapple with every day,” he added.

Defensor warned his colleagues in Congress that tackling Cha-cha now could adversely affect the country’s Covid-19 response.

“Cha-cha is a highly divisive issue. It will sap the nation’s attention, resources, logistics, and manpower, which will all be diverted to this untimely effort,” he said.

He said the public might also accuse lawmakers of aiming to extend the stay in power of elective officials by working on Cha-Cha toward the end of the term of the Duterte administration and their own term of office.

He said every Cha-Cha initiative in the past failed because it was undertaken toward the end of every sitting administration.