It’s a no-brainer.
This is hardly the time for tackling a decidedly divisive issue which could sap the energies or our leaders and vital resources better mobilized for the still raging battle against the 2019 coronavirus disease pandemic.
It is made even more compelling as the running Covid-19 tally points to to what is generally feared to be a “second wave”.
Can the debate on Charter-change and the proposed shift to a federal form of government please be moved to the back burner at this time?
Otherwise, generations to come would hold us to account for our warped sense of prioritities.
And so we fully agree with and strongly support Sen. Nancy Binay today in calling on government agencies tasked in pushing for federalism to mount an aggressive information campaign about Covid-19 instead of focusing their budgets on gathering signatures for charter change.
"Sayang po 'yung milyun-milyong budget ng DILG at PCOO na ginagasta sa federalism roadshows na sana she said po ay sagot sa kumakalam na sikmura. Ang priority dapat ng gobyerno ngayon ay solusyon sa problema, 'di pirma sa cha-cha,"Binay said.
With the public still clueless on what to expect and and how to prepare as the country transitions from MECQ or MGCQ and towards the new normal, she said the Presidential Communications Operations Office, and the Department of Interior and Local Government have big shoes to fill when it comes to information campaign.
"On the part of the PCOO, we expect a massive multi-platform information campaign for the public to know the 'Dos and Donts' as we transition from ECQ to the new normal. Dapat merong aggressive effort to put into infomercials and readable printed formats ang lahat ng kaliit-liitang detalye ng safety and health protocols para naman alam at handa ang publiko to live and embrace the new norm," she said
Binay added that the PCOO and the DILG should redirect their federalism roadshow budgets and instead prioritize public health interests in the light of a possible surge of the coronavirus infections under MECQ or GCQ.
"May krisis 'di ba? Bakit cha-cha ang inuuna? Matagal na po nating sinasabi na we are at a crucial point where communication is vital in confronting a state of public health emergency. Mag-step up naman sana ang PCOO at DILG in elevating the ante in risk communication.
"There should be a uniform standard information campaign na dapat nakalatag nang malinaw sa isang risk communication plan. Dapat ipinapaabot sa tao na seryosohin ang safety protocols. 'Pag sinabing 'social distancing', 'wag kang didikit o lalapit. More than two months na puro presscon, pero wala pa ring flyers, primers, posters, infomercials na nagagawa ang PCOO o DILG para madaling intindihin ng mga tao ang protocols. Dapat may hinahawakang booklet o manual na nakasulat ang mga dapat o di-dapat gawin," the lawmaker stressed.
Moreover, Binay noted that the DILG has a hefty budget for its Balangayan CORE roadshows earmarked for 81 provinces to drum up support for federalism, adding that it would have been acceptable if the DILG used its budget to strengthen contact tracing capacities of LGUs instead of focusing on gathering two million signatures.
"The current Covid situation is not slowing down. By relaxing some restrictions, it's accelerating the infections in many factors. Focusing on charter change in the midst of a pandemic is excessive, unnecessary, and insensitive. Sana mas binigyan ng priority ang contact tracing capacities ng mga barangay. 'Di po ito ang panahon para pag-usapan ang pederalismo. Ang mga nangangailangan po ng ayuda't trabaho ngayon ay mga tao mismo," she pointed out.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon hit the DILG for pushing Charter change amid the Coronavirus disease, calling it "a total waste of time and resources".
"Habang ang mga Pilipino ay wala ng makain at nawalan ng trabaho, isusubo natin itong Cha-cha?" Drilon said in a statement
"We are in the middle of a pandemic. The country is grappling to contain COVID-19 and deal with its aftermath. To talk about Cha-cha is the height of insensitivity," he stressed.
The media reported about ongoing efforts by the DILG to gather up to two million signatures over the next two months to back amendments to the Constitution, which would be submitted to Congress in July.
The minority leader warned the DILG not to use Covid-19 activities to promote Cha-cha and advance their agenda.
"It will only create distraction, division and unnecessary noise," he said.
"The Congress and the Executive branch should work together to pursue legislation that will help revive the economy and restore the jobs temporarily and permanently lost due to the pandemic. That should be the focus, not Cha-cha," Drilon stressed.
He said that all efforts should be geared toward addressing the still raging crisis.