House solon wants charter change proposals shelved ‘indefinitely’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020   •   439

Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday said he will propose the suspension of deliberations on the controversial charter change (Cha-Cha) proposals amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said he is inclined to recommend to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to “shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely” to focus on discussing measures to address the public health crisis and help the Filipino people prepare for the ‘new normal’.

The lawmaker made the proposal following claims that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other advocates initiated moves to gather up to two million signatures in support of Cha-Cha.

“This is not the time for the DILG and its allies to relaunch their signature drive and renew their push for Cha-cha. They should postpone it until this health crisis is over,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“So my message to Cha-cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” he added.

Rodriguez said pushing for Cha-Cha can wait as Congress will first have to attend to measures that will “save lives and the livelihood of our people.”

The DILG earlier denied it has launched a signature campaign for Cha-Cha, branding these reports as fake news. RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

‘Bitter Talaga Sila’: Cayetano slammed for riding on BTS popularity for clout

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Seven lawmakers who previously held key positions in the House of Representatives (HOR) coined the slogans “Back to Service” and “Bayanihan, Tapang at Serbisyo” as their newest advocacy — these also coincidentally form the acronym “BTS”.

BTS is more popularly known as the acronym for Bangtan Boys, a South Korean pop group that is considered the biggest boy band in the world right now.

Meanwhile, the newly formed BTS political bloc in Congress — spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — claims that the Lower House is not in its proper order of business nowadays.

The group wants to bring focus on more pressing issues such as economic recovery, COVID-19 response and prompt delivery of government services.

“Kung inuna niya ang hearing sa vaccination at sa PhilHealth, wala tayong problema. Inuna ang Cha-Cha,” Cayetano said of his successor House Speaker Allan Velasco.

READ: Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez echoed the same sentiments.

“Kasi very important yung problema ng pandemic and that’s the reason why wala kaming sinasayang na oras. Pero ngayon isang buwan kaming bakasyon at magsisimula ang Kongreso sa Lunes wala kang narinig na hearing,” he said. 

All seven of them said they are part of a much larger group of colleagues in Congress who support their initiative.

“We are a bigger group. We have many sympathisers, supporters that are currently part of the leadership of the House. Marami kaming kasama na committee chairmen,” said Anak Kalusugan Partylist Mike Defensor.

They believe the HOR has lost its glory and they want to reinstate it through this advocacy.

“We want to bring back the House of Representative being the house of the people rather than the house of politics,” noted Camarines Sur Representative L-Ray Villafuerte.

“Pinatibay namin iyong grupo namin dahil iisa ang nararamdaman namin. Kailangang maramdaman ng mga tao na ang House of Representatives ay kasama nila sa anumang nararamdaman nila,” added Batangas Representative Raneo Abu.

On the other hand, Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon defended Velasco’s push for charter change as he believes it can solve and improve the current state of the country’s economy.

“Cha-Cha is sincere to deal only with economic provisions and supported by party leaders because this is the most opportune and right time to address the high unemployment rate and closure of business as the constitutional amendments seek to address infusion of massive investment opportunities,” he said.

Leachon in a statement called Cayetano’s group “ungrateful” and “selfish”.

He said Cayetano should have been thankful that Velasco did not touch the “bloated budget” that the former inserted and crafted into the 2021 national budget.

“Moreover, Speaker Velasco, despite their demeaning personality attacks on him, didn’t even raise a finger for 15 months and just waited for the right time to assume as the head of Congress based on the term-sharing agreement. Yun ang tularan nila- maginoo,” Leachon said.

“Their BTS launch is insignificant as to derail the Velasco’s legislative agenda because the current leadership under Speaker Velasco has earned the respect of the members of the supermajority  because they lucidly see a decent man, not vindictive, working leader who has also a gentle heart to feel the needs of the House members. Hindi barkadahan lang,” he added.

Leachon advised the group not to ride on the popularity of the K-pop group BTS because their acronym might end up standing for: ‘Bitter Talaga Sila.’ MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Former NEDA chief says ‘yes’ to change in Constitution’s economic provisions

Marje Pelayo   •   January 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Among those who expressed agreement in changing the economic provisions of the Constitution is former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Ernesto Pernia.

He believes that, at this stage, the country’s economy is slowly recovering from months of the crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pernia said amending the Constitution will facilitate further and faster economic growth. 

He noted that one way to ensure economic progress is to welcome foreign investments into the Philippines similar to what Vietnam did where their economy progressed despite the pandemic in 2020.

The former economic head said the Philippines has the strictest measures among countries in the world in terms of allowing foreign investments.

“In fact, there are already green shoots of signs that the economy is in the early stages of recovery. But we really need to push that with policies including allowing direct foreign direct investments into the country so that this recovery will accelerate,” Pernia said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian believes that this is the right time to reopen the economy considering the number of Filipinos who lost their jobs including overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and companies that terminated their businesses. 

According to Albay Representative Joey Salceda, the country’s economy will gain an additional US$5-B to US$7-B or about P240-B to P336-B every year once it opens its doors to foreign investments.

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, during the hearing in Congress, endorsed the more than half a million signatures they collated from 72 provinces across the country supporting the amendment in the economic provisions of the Constitution.

Malaya believes the number will reach millions if not of the pandemic.

For his part, Professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines School of Economics Dr. Raul Fabella said among the challenges facing foreign investors in establishing their businesses here include high cost of electricity, the quality of judicial system and the peace and order.

He cited, as an example, the construction of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 which amounts to US370-M dollars and has an impending case over ownership that reached the Supreme Court.

“In 2013 the court of appeals awarded Piatco 371 million dollars as just compensation. The Philippine Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision in 2015, by that time the debt has ballooned to 24 billion pesos,” Fabella noted.

Research group Ibon Foundation, meanwhile, said there is no reason to change the Constitution if the issue is only about economic recovery because the government may simply provide financial assistance such as stimulus package.

“The economy’s development lies in using the protections in the Constitution to gain from foreign investment, not in taking away the protections and giving self-interested foreign investment free rein over the domestic economy,” explained Rosario Guzman, Ibon’s Executive Director and Head of Research Division.

The resolution filed by House Speaker Allan Velasco proposes the insertion of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in the concerned provisions that limit the entry and participation of foreign investors in the country’s economy. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Muling pagsusulong sa panukalang Charter change, tinutulan ng ilang senador

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Kinuwestiyon ng ilang senador ang muling pagsusulong sa panukalang amiyendahan ang saligang batas sa gitna ng nararanasang coronavirus pandemic.

Ayon kay Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, pag-aaksaya lang ng oras ang pagtalakay sa panukala na hindi rin naman uusad sa mataas na kapulungan ng Kongreso.

“It will be a total waste of time. It won’t fly. Our history tells us that Cha-cha has a zero chance of success in any administration that is already in the home stretch,” ang pahayag ni Drilon.

Iginiit din ng mambabatas na maituturing pang kasalanan ang pagtalakay sa usapin gayong wala pang nakikitang lunas sa kinakaharap na global health crisis at iba pang problema sa bansa.

“It is a sin to be even talking about changing the Constitution when there is still no end in sight to the pandemic, when the government is struggling to secure funding for COVID-19 vaccines, and when the country is still reeling from the continuing impact of the pandemic and the recent typhoons,” ang wika ni Drilon.

“Instead of talking about Cha-cha, let’s talk about how we can bring down inflation and let’s talk about how we can bring back lost jobs and livelihood opportunities,” dagdag pa niya.

Ginawa ni Drilon ang pahayag matapos kumpirmahin ni Senate President Vicente Sotto III noong Miyerkules na may mga nakahain nang panukala para sa pag-convene ng 18th Congress bilang Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) para sa pag-amiyenda sa konstitusyon.

Noong Disyembre 2020, naghain ng Resolution of both Houses sina Senator Francis Tolentino at Ronald dela Rosa para isulong ang Con-Ass at magsagawa ng limitadong pagbabago sa 1987 Constitution.

Hindi nakasaad sa resolusyon ang mga probisyon sa saligang batas na isinusulong na baguhin pero limitado lamang ang gagawing pag-amiyenda sa “democratic representation” at “economic provisions” ng Konstitusyon.

Giit nina Tolentino at Dela Rosa, kailangan na ng reporma ang 33-anyos na Saligang Batas ng bansa upang makatugon sa pangangailangan ng publiko lalo na sa gitna ng pandemya.

Ngunit para kay Senator Panfilo Lacson, dapat munang pag-usapan nang mabuti ang panukala.

Ayon naman kay Sotto, halos imposible kung mismong Charter change ang pag-uusapan at mas may pag-asa pa kung pag-amyenda lang sa mga probisyon ang gagawin.

Nilinaw rin ng senador na batay kanilang pulong noong Nobyembre, ang pag-aalis lamang sa party-list provision ng Saligang Batas ang nais ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte upang maresolba ang isyu sa Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

Kung si Sotto naman ang tatanungin, mas mainam kung amiyendahan na lamang ang umiiral na Party-List Law sa bansa at hindi na mag-convene ang dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso bilang Con-Ass.

Posibleng magpatawag ng caucus ang Senado upang pag-usapan ang isyu. — RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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