Senators react to President’s prodding on Cha-cha

Rodrigo Duterte

SEVERAL senators were uncertain if Charter change could make headway in the upper chamber, even with President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to House of Representatives leaders to push for it within his term.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, who chaired the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes during the 17th Congress, said it will all depend on the majority bloc in the Senate.

“We will see how it goes given the new composition of the Senate,” he said.
Pangilinan admitted that he is not yet certain if he would again chair the committee during the 18th Congress.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon could not tell how the senators would vote, though he believed that some of his colleagues would not support the move to amend the Constitution and shift to a federal form of government.

He explained that a resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution, either through a constituent assembly or constitutional commission, would be referred, in due course, to the committee which would conduct the hearings and submit a report.

On the other hand, Senator Koko Pimentel said that the Charter change initiative’s progress still “depended on the details.”

“If not for federalism what needs to be changed in the 1987 Constitution? This we need to know,” said Pimentel.

Meanwhile, Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said he had to take a look at the details of Cha-cha proposal.

Senator Panfilo Lacson argued that efforts to amend the Constitution were a little more complicated than what the President and the House wanted.

“We are simply back to the same question, which is to clarify the ambiguity of the provision in the Constitution that deals with the manner of voting by Congress constituting itself into a constituent assembly. Again, in doing so, we are faced with a chicken and egg situation. If it’s via concom, do we have enough time to accomplish it before the end of his term?” Lacson explained.

By contrast, Senator Francis Tolentino believed that there was enough time to pursue Charter change.

Tolentino said he first wanted to see movement on the matter in the House, though he remembered that federalism was among the President’s campaign promises in 2016, and was a platform of the PDP-Laban.

“Tapos na ‘yung preparatory work ng Concom (consultative committee) eh. ‘Yung ginawa ni former Chief Justice Reynato Puno. It was commissioned by the executive branch, may napadala na silang report at nasa infancy stage na yung kauna-unahang version nito, ‘yung sa Bangsamoro. Hindi pa siguro huli ang lahat,” Tolentino stressed.