By Raymund Antonio and Hannah Torregoza
Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said Congress should not rush the shift to a federal form of government through Charter change and added that threatening local government units to help speed up the process may only caise further division.
In her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni,” Robredo said the public needs enough time to understand federalism and appreciate the benefits of the proposed Cha-cha.
““Kung isang bagay ito na mabuti para sa atin eh paintindi sa atin ang kabutihan nito. Huwag naman sana na daanin sa dahas. Huwag daanin sa pabilisan (If this is one thing that is good for us, they should make us understand its benefits. I hope they should not resort to threats. This should not be rushed),” she said.
“Huwag sabihin na kung hindi boboto para dito hindi magkakaroon ng budget kasi kapag ganyan para lahat tayo magdududa na, lalo tayo hindi magkakaisa (Don’t say that if you don’t vote in favor of it, you will get no funding because if that’s the case everyone will doubt, the more we will not unite),” she added.
The Vice President reacted to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s statement that he would withhold funds of politicians who will not support the federalism initiative of President Duterte.
Robredo, a lawyer and former Camarines Sur representative, is against the shift to federalism, and said that charter change is untimely because of various problems facing the country such as poverty and rising consumer prices.
The shift to federalism is among the priority programs of the current administration.
This will empower local governments in other regions and decentralize power and wealth from Manila.
The consultative committee tasked by Duterte to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution has already submitted a draft federal charter to the House of Representatives.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon echoed the same call on Sunday by saying that lawmakers should not rush Charter change and let the committee system work, and first feel the true pulse of the people on the matter of shifting to a federal form of government.
Drilon said Congress should not be rushed into amending the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for federalism as “amending our Charter is not like passing an ordinary legislation.”
“Congress should not be rushed into amending the Constitution to pave the way for federalism,” Drilon said.
“It is much harder than that. It requires comprehensive studies and deliberations. There are a lot of imponderables and implications that can affect our people of today and of the generations to come,” the minority leader pointed out.
“Let the committee system work. Let the committee draft its report and route it to its member. Then, let the debate to proceed,” Drilon added.
Drilon reiterated his earlier warning that the real motive behind moves to rush the Charter change is to ensure a “no-election” scenario as some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies are planning to postpone the 2019 mid-term elections in order to extend their term.
“As the saying goes, the cat is out of the bag. Charter change is being pushed in order that the election could be postponed. Clearly, Cha-cha is meant for ‘no-el’,” he said.
Drilon said he hopes that the administration and its allies in Congress would take into account the people’s sentiment on Charter change and federalism, in light of survey results showing that a greater majority of Filipinos are opposed to it.
He also said that the Filipinos are more concerned about the ballooning inflation, rising prices of fuel products and basic commodities, unemployment, and criminality, which the government ought to address first.
“Marami pa tayong dapat tingnan at pag-aralan nang husto (there are so many things we need to do and study first),” Drilon said.