House OKs resolution on longer terms for Congressmen, local officials

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 13, 2019   •   285

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments has passed an unnumbered resolution seeking several constitutional amendments including a five-year term extension for congressmen and local officials.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said local officials can fully implement their platforms if their terms will be extended to five years.

“On the first term you make your program, you study then you’ll be able to make that plan. On the second year the local officials and the members of the House of Representatives will be implementing [the plan]. On the third year, they are now campaigning, so where is the real public service there?” he said.

Rodriguez also wants the plenary debates to begin by next week and expect the resolution to be passed by January 2020.

Other proposed constitutional amendments include legislative flexibility for foreign investments; tandem voting for president and vice president, and election of senators by region (with proposal dividing the Philippines to nine regions).

However, Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said the resolution did not go through proper process.

“Nagtataka ako kung bakit kailangan pang i-executive session ang pinapanukala nilang charter change na ito na hindi sumusunod sa mga tamang paraan para amyendahan ang Konstitusyon (I am wondering why there is a need for an executive session for the proposed charter change which does not follow the proper process in amending the Constitution),” she said.

“Mukhang gusto lang talaga nilang madaliin ang pagpasa nito at gulatin ang mamamayan (It seems like they just want to expedite the process and surprise the citizens),” she added.—AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Cha-Cha sees no progress in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators seem adamant on catering to the House of Representatives’ (HOR) proposed Charter change.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said such a proposal is not a priority at this time adding that the Senate is not considering accepting it after the HOR approved its version of the bill.

The Lower House proposes the following amendments to the Constitution:

1. Legislative flexibility for foreign Investments

2. Tandem voting for president and vice president

3. Election of senators by region (with proposal dividing PH to 9 regions)

4. 5-year term for local officials and Congressmen

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Rufus Rodriguez is asking the senators to take time to study their proposal before deciding to drop it.

“I hope that the senators, instead of saying, it’s doomed, it’s not a priority, should look into every proposal: are they good for the country or not? That is the main issue there,” Rodriguez argued.

The lawmaker also denied allegations that the bill is “self-serving” on the part of the congressmen and that they have personal interests in pushing the proposed amendments.

“If this is approved it will only apply to those elected in 2022. All of us will go to the elections of 2022,” Rodriguez said.

“We are not extending our terms,” he added.

The Surigao Del Sur Representative stressed that the bill underwent public consultation from various sectors across the country.

The Lower House lawmakers are expected to debate on the measure at the plenary come February next year which may run for two months, according to Rodriguez. – MNP (with details from Vincent Arboleda)

Senators on new House charter change resolution: ‘Not a priority’

Robie de Guzman   •   December 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators remain indifferent to the proposal of the House of Representatives to amend the provisions of the Philippine 1987 Constitution.

According to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, charter change is not among the Senate’s priority agenda.

“It’s not a priority in the Senate. It’s not in any committees, there’s no resolution filed. We are not talking about it,” he told reporters in a press briefing Monday.

Sotto’s statement was in response to the passage of a House resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution.

The unnumbered resolution, which was approved in a closed-door meeting last week by the House constitutional amendments committee led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, seeks to relax the economic restrictions stated in the country’s charter, and lengthen the terms of local government officials, congressmen and senators to five years and three terms.

Under the present charter, a senator can serve for six years and run for two consecutive times while congressmen and local officials can serve for three years and three consecutive terms.

Although the proposal will not be discussed, the Senate said it will not stop the Lower House from convening as Constituent Assembly to tackle the draft charter change.

A resolution of both houses or a joint resolution requires the approval of both chambers and the signature of the president, according to the Senate’s website.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said that pushing for charter change is doomed without the Senate’s approval.

Drilon also advised congressmen who would insist on passing charter change to “make it a point to include their return address because the Senate and the Filipino people will not accept it.”

The opposition lawmaker also called the proposal of House lawmakers to extend their term as a “self-serving move.”

READ: House OKs resolution on longer terms for Congressmen, local officials

“The term extension is ill-conceived. It extinguishes all the good intentions they may have in mind in pushing for Cha-cha. We will oppose it,” he said in a statement.

He added that the non-mention of Cha-cha and federalism in the last state of the nation address of President Rodrigo Duterte was a clear message to Congress that Cha-cha is no longer a priority of the administration.

“Apparently, the message was lost on the members of the House of Representatives. I had said it before and I will say it once more, Cha-cha is dead,” Drilon said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also said the passage of the House resolution on charter change would not prosper if submitted to the Senate just like what happened in the past.

“Dati na nating nakita ang kapareho na Resolution of both House sa panahon ni [former president Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo. At the time, it was dead in the water dito sa Senado. I’m confident bilang bahagi ng Senate minority at si Senator Kiko [Pangilinan] ang chair ng Senate committee on constitutional amendments, if that would be sent here, it will also arrive dead in the water ditto sa Senado,” she said in a media interview.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa expressed doubt on whether Duterte will still be able to implement the reforms he is pushing if the charter would be amended, adding that he would support it if it includes a shift to federalism.  

“Baka kulang na ng oras, short na ang oras at panahon ni President Duterte, hindi na niya make-carry out ang gusto niyang mga pagbabago na gagawin pero still kung pupwede pa, go ahead, suporta ako diyan,” he told reporters in a separate interview. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

Duterte laid proposed charter change to rest – Drilon

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes that President Rodrigo Duterte has already laid the proposed Charter change to rest when he left it out of his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Drilon said the president’s silence on federalism indicates that charter change is not a priority of the Duterte administration anymore.

“What’s more telling in the President’s speech is not what he said but what he did not say. That speaks volumes. For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-cha’s ‘final resting place,'” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.

Duterte has been pushing for federalism and charter change since he came to power in 2016. But during his media interview after the SONA on Monday night, the president said federalism and the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution may not happen during his term.

READ: Duterte leaves out Cha-cha, federalism in 4th SONA

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano earlier said he would push to extend the term of office of lawmakers.

But based on the chief executive’s statement, Drilon said those who have plans to revive Charter change in the 18th Congress “should better think twice.”

“It will be an exercise in futility,” he said.

Meanwhile, the senator also expressed support to some of Duterte’s “wish-list” to Congress, except for his call to reimpose the death penalty in the country.

“We do not agree that death penalty is the solution to our illegal drugs and corruption problems. Death penalty is anti-poor,” Drilon said, adding that what needs to be done is strengthen the country’s justice system which he describes as “weak,” and “very prone to error.”

“We may not always see eye to eye with the President on certain issues, but in terms of legislation that will benefit the country, we are always ready to support him,” he further said.

The lawmaker said he is supporting Duterte’s proposed salary standardization law, the increase in teacher’s salary and the creation of a water department.

He said two of his pet bills call for the increase in the salary of teachers and the creation of the Philippine Water Commission to manage and regulate the country’s water resources.

Drilon also said they are also ready to examine all the other measures stated in the SONA.

“We are willing to listen and take a look at the proposals on the proposed tax reform law, the Land Use Act and the creation of the disaster management department,” he said.

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