By Ben Rosario
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday confirmed that the House of Representatives will drop its long-standing position for a joint voting with the Senate on Charter change.
“We want to move forward, to be realistic. Better to move forward and achieve something rather than be stubborn and achieve nothing,” said Arroyo during an ambush interview with the House media in Pampanga.
The newly-installed speaker confirmed the earlier statement of Rep. Albee Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental) who disclosed that the Lower House will no longer insist for a joint voting should Congress be convened into a constituent assembly for the purpose of amending the 1987 Constitution.
Benitez said a meeting is expected to be called between House and Senate leaders to discuss anew the Charter change move that enjoys strong backing from the Duterte administraiotn.
“One of the conditions the Senate imposes is for us to recognize separate voting on provisions that will be amended. The House leadership will no longer contest this, we have to move forward,” said Benitez, recognized as the PDP-Laban party whip in the Lower House.
He added: “We really need to work hand-in-hand with the Senate to approve the federal constitution.”’
Arroyo said there remains no specific timeline to be followed for the approval of a new Constitution.
“But we should move forward from the time when I was president. I ended my presidency with the same stalemate,” Arroyo lamented.
She blamed the controversy over the manner of voting for the delayed passage of a new Charter.
“You remember we have the same stalemate on voting separately and voting together and a few years later we are in the same stalemate. We should move forward and the way to move forward is to agree to voting separately,” the newly installed House leader said.
Benitez said the best scenario for Charter revision is for Congress to be able to finish its job in time for the holding of the May 2019 mid-term elections.
The senior administration lawmaker said the House majority bloc will push for the charter plebiscite to coincide with the May polls.
“But if we will not be able to have the plebiscite next year, we will have no other option but to continue working on Charter change after the elections. But in the meantime, we are making a huge development towards this end by agreeing with our Senate counterpart,” he said.