By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said he respects his colleagues’ decision not to prioritize the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) that would pave the way for the shift to a federal government.
Pimentel, a known proponent of federalism, said he understands the position of the Senate to place the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution on the backburner pending the thorough review of the draft federal charter submitted by the Consultative Committee (Con-Com).
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, following a caucus, on Wednesday confirmed that Cha-cha and federalism are not among the priorities of the Upper Chamber and they are not rushing on a timetable for it.
In an interview Thursday, Pimentel acknowledged that his fellow senators may only have respected his thrust towards federalism during his time as Senate chief.
“First of all, it only became a priority when I was the Senate President. Maybe, it was out of respect, when I was Senate President, that they allowed me to mention that it is a priority,” he told reporters in Filipino.
Of the 23 senators, only four were supportive on the shift to a federal government: Pimentel, Sotto, and Sens. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Manny Pacquiao.
But Pimentel, following the leadership row at the House of Representatives Monday, doubted that his colleagues would still support it.
“Baka isa na lang ang nakataas na kamay, so kung sasabihin ni Senate President Sotto na its not priority I will understand. Kasi ako na lang eh, ako na lang ang advocate ng federalism,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel, on the hand, made a clarification about Sotto’s statement that no one from the senators had submitted Cha-cha and federalism as priority measures.
“Hindi naman kasi bill ‘yon. Ang tinanong kasi sa amin bill. But this is a change in the Constitution. That’s a priority for me, but I did not submit it as a bill,” Pimental said.
Senators, earlier, expressed their reservations on the proposed amendment of the present Charter particularly on its necessity, and the mode of voting on it. They stood firm that voting should be separate from the House of Representatives.
Pimentel, on Thursday, said he would request for meeting with President Duterte to discuss federalism and issues within their party.