Former senator and Concom member Aquilino Pimentel Jr. vowed to denounce the House’s version in every engagement where he will be invited to speak.
Boy Santos
Consultative committee members slam House federal charter
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - December 13, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Members of President Duterte’s consultative committee (Concom), tasked to review the 1987 Constitution were dissatisfied with the version of the federal charter of the House of Representatives. 

Former senator and Concom member Aquilino Pimentel Jr. vowed to denounce the House’s version in every engagement where he will be invited to speak.

Pimentel suspected that a hidden agenda “may be attributed” to Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  

“I find it a little off tangent for the reason that their version, among other things, does not contain (provisions) against political dynasties and term limits,” Pimentel said in an interview. 

“The Concom, as a group, is willing to go around the nation to explain the thrust of our recommendation,” he added.

San Beda Graduate School of Law dean and Concom member Fr. Ranhilio Aquino was dismayed because their draft was “unceremoniously set aside.” 

For Concom member professor Eddie Alih, the House version was expected, as the lawmakers will not come up with a version that will go against their personal interests. 

“It is for this reason that they have failed to deliver the bill on anti-political dynasty as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. They do not have the political will needed to make the Philippines a better country for the (succeeding) generations,” Alih said. 

 Alih added that the future of the country, as far as Charter change (Cha-cha) is concerned, now lies in the hands of the Filipino people. 

“The Filipino people cannot rely on (the House members). We leave it to the Filipino people to take the next step, God willing. I am confident that the Filipino people will reject the House version,” he said. 

Former chief justice and Concom chairman Reynato Puno said they have to convene a meeting to come up with a statement on the recent development in the House. 

“We have drafted the proposed charter as a group so we need to discuss and come up with a decision as a committee,” Puno told The STAR.

Opposition figures

Vice President Leni Robredo has urged Filipinos to support candidates in the 2019 midterm elections who are not after their own political survival.

Robredo said politicians should not equate their support for President Duterte with their vote for federalism.

“Here in our country, the politicians think that if they don’t support the President’s advocacy they will lose. They also don’t like to earn the ire of the President and don’t want to get a zero budget. This kind of politicians are the ones who would like to cling to power,” she said.

“Sadly, many of the politicians think of their own survival,” she said.

A March 2018 survey of the Social Weather Stations found that only 37 percent of Filipinos support the shift from a unitary presidential government to a federal system, while only one in four or 25 percent of them is aware of what federalism is.

Robredo also sees the May 2019 polls as an opportunity to elect officials who can do something unpopular for the benefit of the people.

“We should vote for the rightful candidates who are not basing their decisions on who is the sitting President but on worthiness of the proposed measure,” the Vice President said.

Former interior secretary Mar Roxas yesterday called on lawmakers to prioritize measures that would address sky-high prices of basic commodities instead of lifting term limits to benefit themselves.

“The Senate is right in dismissing the chances of Cha-cha in its chamber,” Roxas said. “How will lifting term limits benefit the family? Instead of the creation of jobs, lawmakers are thinking about their own interests.”

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay yesterday urged Filipinos to unite and oppose Cha-cha, saying this is a “clear danger” to the country’s democracy.

Hilbay added that there is a possibility of Arroyo’s return to power under the draft charter.

“If the Senate refuses to participate in Arroyo’s (Cha-cha), it might be up to the Supreme Court (SC) to decide whether the House can propose changes to the Constitution on its own,” he said.

“If the (SC) allows this, then it will put the country back in disarray with political dynasties lording over us,” Hilbay said.

Human rights lawyer and opposition senatorial candidate Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno also urged the administration to focus on the country’s more pressing problems instead of pushing for Cha-cha and the extension of martial law.

“Why are members of Congress talking about martial law extension? Why are they talking about federalism or Cha-cha when these are not the real issues in the country,” Diokno said.

Poll watchdog

Fearing that few elite and political families would lord it over the country, the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) yesterday rejected proposals to remove the term limits of elected officials.

Namfrel secretary-general Eric Alvia said junking term limits is tantamount to the removal of safeguards against monopoly of power.

“We can expect elected public officials and their families lording over for extended periods of time. This may be detrimental for the constituents and development,” Alvia explained.

“This is also worrisome, especially in a federal structure, since it could further spawn political and economic elites,” Alvia added.

Alvia said Namfrel is against the House version, which is contrary to the draft charter submitted by the Concom.

“The removal (of term limits) worsens the situation since an anti-dynasty provision counters the absence of term limits,” he said.

With the term limits and ban on political dynasties removed, Alvia said, the country’s political system will be open to abuse and exploitation. – With Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin, Edu Punay, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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