By Ellson Quismorio
Charter Change or Cha-Cha talks should be a “casualty” of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez reckoned Thursday.
Rodriguez, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said that he is “inclined to recommend to the Speaker that we shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely.”
This would allow the legislature “to focus on measures to fight this pandemic, help our affected people and prepare the nation for post-lockdown and post-coronavirus disease, or the new-normal life,” he said.
He said he has no doubt that Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano would favor his recommendation “since he has repeatedly declared that he wants us to work on COVID-19-related measures without any divisive issue distracting us.”
In the meantime, Rodriguez said his committee is suspending consideration of any proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Rodriguez made the statement amid reports that local officials and other Cha-Cha supporters identified with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have resumed their signature-gathering campaign to push for Cha-Cha even while the country is battling the contagion.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año, who is a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) fighting the pandemic, has reportedly distanced himself from the revived constitutional amendment effort.
“This is not the time for the DILG and its allies to relaunch their signature drive and renew their push for Cha-Cha. They should postpone it until this health crisis is over,” the veteran congressman said.
It can wait
Rodriguez said the revived campaign is a waste of time, effort and money “because we will not act on Cha-Cha while our people are suffering and are in danger of getting infected by the coronavirus.”
He pointed out that if the House is not disposed to act on Cha-Cha at this time, more so is the Senate, which is opposed to Charter Change.
“Cha-Cha can wait. We will first have to attend to measures that will save lives and the livelihood of our people. So my message to Cha-Cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” he concluded.
Over 13,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Philippines.