MANILA, Philippines – Some senators remain indifferent to the proposal of the House of Representatives to amend the provisions of the Philippine 1987 Constitution.
According to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, charter change is not among the Senate’s priority agenda.
“It’s not a priority in the Senate. It’s not in any committees, there’s no resolution filed. We are not talking about it,” he told reporters in a press briefing Monday.
Sotto’s statement was in response to the passage of a House resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution.
The unnumbered resolution, which was approved in a closed-door meeting last week by the House constitutional amendments committee led by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, seeks to relax the economic restrictions stated in the country’s charter, and lengthen the terms of local government officials, congressmen and senators to five years and three terms.
Under the present charter, a senator can serve for six years and run for two consecutive times while congressmen and local officials can serve for three years and three consecutive terms.
Although the proposal will not be discussed, the Senate said it will not stop the Lower House from convening as Constituent Assembly to tackle the draft charter change.
A resolution of both houses or a joint resolution requires the approval of both chambers and the signature of the president, according to the Senate’s website.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said that pushing for charter change is doomed without the Senate’s approval.
Drilon also advised congressmen who would insist on passing charter change to “make it a point to include their return address because the Senate and the Filipino people will not accept it.”
The opposition lawmaker also called the proposal of House lawmakers to extend their term as a “self-serving move.”
READ: House OKs resolution on longer terms for Congressmen, local officials
“The term extension is ill-conceived. It extinguishes all the good intentions they may have in mind in pushing for Cha-cha. We will oppose it,” he said in a statement.
He added that the non-mention of Cha-cha and federalism in the last state of the nation address of President Rodrigo Duterte was a clear message to Congress that Cha-cha is no longer a priority of the administration.
“Apparently, the message was lost on the members of the House of Representatives. I had said it before and I will say it once more, Cha-cha is dead,” Drilon said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also said the passage of the House resolution on charter change would not prosper if submitted to the Senate just like what happened in the past.
“Dati na nating nakita ang kapareho na Resolution of both House sa panahon ni [former president Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo. At the time, it was dead in the water dito sa Senado. I’m confident bilang bahagi ng Senate minority at si Senator Kiko [Pangilinan] ang chair ng Senate committee on constitutional amendments, if that would be sent here, it will also arrive dead in the water ditto sa Senado,” she said in a media interview.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa expressed doubt on whether Duterte will still be able to implement the reforms he is pushing if the charter would be amended, adding that he would support it if it includes a shift to federalism.
“Baka kulang na ng oras, short na ang oras at panahon ni President Duterte, hindi na niya make-carry out ang gusto niyang mga pagbabago na gagawin pero still kung pupwede pa, go ahead, suporta ako diyan,” he told reporters in a separate interview. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)