Senate President Vicente Sotto III said this is not the time for the DILG to “indulge” in Charter change, particularly the gathering of two million signatures to support it.
Geremy Pintolo, file
Senators slam ‘sneaky’ Cha-cha moves
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators slammed yesterday the move of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to continue its campaign for Charter change as the country struggles to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said this is not the time for the DILG to “indulge” in Charter change, particularly the gathering of two million signatures to support it.

“They should focus more on the safety and food security of the people. I’m sure the President has not ordered anything to that effect,” Sotto told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon hit the DILG for pushing Charter change amid the pandemic, calling it “a total waste of time and resources.”

“While Filipinos have nothing to eat and have lost their jobs, we will force feed them with Cha-cha?” Drilon said in a statement yesterday.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic. The country is grappling to contain COVID-19 and deal with its aftermath. To talk about Cha-cha is the height of insensitivity,” he said.

The media reported about ongoing efforts by the DILG to gather up to two million signatures over the next two months to back amendments to the Constitution, which will be submitted to Congress in July.

Drilon also warned the DILG not to use COVID-19 activities to promote Cha-cha and advance their agenda as “it will only create distraction, division and unnecessary noise.”

He said Congress and the executive branch should work together to pursue legislation that will help revive the economy and restore the jobs temporarily and permanently lost due to the pandemic.

Sen. Joel Villanueva said DILG personnel should augment the efforts of the regional IATF teams by either manning testing facilities or lending their time and effort to assist LGUs rather than pursuing a signature campaign for Charter change.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan lamented the DILG campaign as the country remains hard-pressed to raise funds to address the huge damage caused by the pandemic on the economy.

“Addressing the impact of the pandemic both on the health of our citizens and the health of the economy should be our only focus at this point,” Pangilinan said.

“The current effort is out of touch with current realities and is an insult to millions of our citizens who have lost their jobs, who are experiencing unprecedented hunger and who continue to be threatened by the spread of this incurable disease,” he said.

Instead of using taxpayers’ money and personnel on collecting millions of signatures, the DILG should instead focus on mass testing and contact-tracing millions of Filipinos, both of which until now remain to be undertaken in full two months after the law granting Malacañang special powers to use billions of pesos to address the pandemic was passed, he said.

Sen. Sonny Angara described the DILG’s Charter change campaign as a “waste of time and effort” that could have been used to help LGUs like barangays to combat COVID-19.

He lamented that funds are taken from state universities and colleges and urgent infrastructure programs to combat the pandemic while Charter change campaigns are being sustained.

“Seems that we need to rethink our priorities and this shouldn’t be one of them,” Angara said.

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