Charter moves continue  despite polls

Published December 18, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

E CARTOON DEC 19, 2019
The last time there was a survey of public opinion on the move  to amend the Constitution,  a big majority of 67 percent – nearly  seven out of every ten Filipinos – opposed Charter change at this  time. The survey  was  conducted by Pulse Asia in June this year. The opposition  to Charter change  had grown from  64 percent  in the previous survey in March.

On the particular issue of shifting  from  the present  unitary system  of  government to a federal  one, the survey  found  that 62 percent  oppose  such a change.

Despite  this  evidence of  great opposition to Charter change at this time,  the House of Representatives continues to  press for such change.  Last December 11, the House Committee on Constitutional   Amendments  approved  a  resolution proposing  amendments  to  terms of office of legislators and local officials and to economic provisions of the  present  Constitution.

The committee headed by Rep.  Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City  proposed  that  senators, congressmen, and local  officials  have five-year  terms, with two possible  reelections.  Today, a  senator  has  a  six-year term, with one  possible reelection.  A congressmen has  a  three-year  t erm  with two possible reelections.   A local official  has  a three-year  term, with two   possible  reelections. Basically, the  point of the proposed change is that the present  three-year terms  are  not practical, since the first year is spent getting adjusted while the third and last year is used to plan for  reelection, leaving only one year for real  work.

The committee   proposed  that  instead of  nationwide voting for senators, they    should be elected by regions – three each from  nine proposed regions – to ensure more equitable  representation by the various regions. The present Senate, Rodriguez pointed out, has  12  members  from  Metro  Manila.

The committee also  proposed that the phrase “unless otherwise provided by  law” be attached  to economic  provisions of the present Constitution  that  now  limit  foreign  equity in land ownership, exploration of natural  resources, public utilities, mass media,  advertising, and education..

The House is no longer pushing hard for federalism.  Federalism  was  originally sought  by President  Duterte  to allow  greater  regional  development,  especially for Muslim Mindanao.  The Bangsamoro  Autonomous  Region has now been established and  is  on the way to faster development and greater autonomy in governance, even without  federalism.

Congressman Rodriguez  said  his committee’s  proposals will now go to the entire chamber  for  enactment  by three-fourths  vote of the House as part of a Constituent  Assembly. He called on the Senate  to  similarly meet  as the other chamber of a Constituent Assembly  to approve  its own proposed amendments.

The  Senate has been  cold to any amendment  of the Constitution. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was not even  aware  that  the House was pursuing the  move for  constitutional  change, in the wake of recent  studies  that  a shift  to a federal system of government would just create new layers  of the  bureaucracy that  would cost billions of pesos  that the country cannot afford.

Then  there  is also the matter of the opinion surveys which show  that the people do not support any  constitutional   change at this time.