Senators mull charter change

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators remained adamant on revising the 1987 Constitution even as President Duterte said it need not be for his proposed shift to federalism.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Duterte, after naming his choices for House Speaker Monday, pushed anew for a Charter change, this time, to supposedly end corruption in government.

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“[We] Will have to take a look at the details of Cha-cha proposal,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said in a text message Tuesday.

Senator Joel Villanueva, for his part, echoed Recto although he admitted that he does not see the urgency to amend the Constitution.

“We have yet to discuss the merits of changing the Constitution. While I do not see any urgent need to amend the constitution, I don’t want to preempt any discussion,” Villanueva told reporters in a text message.

Even Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, a proponent of federalism, stressed the need to look into the specifics in Duterte’s push for Cha-cha.

“[It] Depends on the details. If not for federalism what needs to be changed in the 1987 Constitution? This we need to know,” Pimentel said.

Neophyte Sen. Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, hoped that the federalism shift will still push through.

“Tignan natin yong magiging movement sa House, but ang campaign promise noong 2016 as well as yong party stand sa PDP-Laban are in favor of federalism (Let’s look at its movement in the House of Representatives, but the campaign promise in 2016, as well as the PDP-Laban’s stand, are in favor of federalism),” Tolentino told Senate reporters in an interview.

But Tolentino said he is open to amending the economic provisions of the Charter, which, he said, was considered as a hindrance to the country’s growth

“At nakikita ko siguro yong isabay na rin natin dyan kung paano mapapalakas yong mga LGUs, kung hindi federalism (And maybe we could include in the amendments how we could strengthen local government units, if not federalism),” he added.

Tolentino believed that it’s “not too late” yet for the Duterte administration to implement changes in the Constitution.

Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said federalism might no longer have a chance in the 18th Congress, saying its transition period “will take too long.” He instead supported Duterte’s appeal to makes changes in the Constitution.

The Senate has since been careful on proposals for Cha-cha. In the 17th Congress, senators agreed not to rush their deliberations on the matter due to various reservations, including the manner of revising Charter with members of the House of Representatives.