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Palace denies GMA link to Charter change moves

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang branded yesterday as political black propaganda reports that President Arroyo is behind the efforts of the House of Representatives to amend the Constitution.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde denied that Malacañang had anything to do with the Charter change (Cha-cha) initiative as the President is focused only on the economy and the welfare of the people.

“We do not discuss or pay any attention to the issue of Cha-cha because President Arroyo is focused on the important matters at hand – the creation of more jobs and addressing the challenges on the economy especially with the global economic crisis,” Remonde said in Filipino.

He said even legislators identified as being behind the efforts to amend the Constitution, are conceding that there is not enough time left to get Charter change moving since the elections would be held in little over a year.

Remonde pointed out that Mrs. Arroyo has signed the P11.3-billion supplemental budget for the automation of the 2010 elections, which clearly demonstrates the commitment of the administration to have elections next year.

A search committee has also been created to screen the administration’s candidates, from president down to local government executives.

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Defense secretary favors Cha-cha

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, also a prospective presidential candidate, bared that if he runs for president he would have a platform of “studied and balanced reforms” to include Charter change.

Teodoro, a Harvard-trained lawyer, admitted that amending the Constitution is a difficult campaign but the move is necessary and fundamental to political and economic reforms.

When asked whether he considered himself a reformist, he said: “I guess what I can offer in that sense is studied reform. I’m disdainful sometimes of the contemporary connotation of what a non-traditional politician is, change for the sake of change. You need a balance, you need some stability and continuity of policy particularly in structural strategic matters and of course, if there is a need to reform, particularly political reform in the proper way, one has to do.”

“A lot in leadership is balancing, balancing not only between good and evil but more often than not between two competing goods, and there you may have to make a difficult choice,” he said.

He said it appeared that everybody agrees that the structure of government “as designed in the 1987 Constitution has some problems because rather than build synergy, it builds division, such is not what the times need.”

Probe sought

Two party-list lawmakers urged the House of Representatives to investigate reports that the lawmaker-son of President Arroyo offered Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. the speakership in exchange for his support for Charter amendments.

Reps. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis said the issue of bribery – in the form of reinstating the ousted speaker – committed by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo should be investigated by the House ethics committee.

De Venecia claimed that the young Arroyo and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez sought his help in persuading congressmen to sign the constituent assembly resolution authored by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte.

Rep. Arroyo has denied the charge.

“The indecent proposal of Mikey and Martin to JDV is something that the House committee on ethics should investigate as it tends to undermine the integrity and independence of the speakership of the House itself,” said Casiño. – With Delon Porcalla, Jose Rodel Clapano, Perseus Echeminada, Eva Visperas

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