Cha-cha plebiscite in 2025 proposed

Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Cha-cha plebiscite in 2025 proposed
Senator Sonny Angara on October 4, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — While congressmen hope for a plebiscite on Charter change as early as July this year, senators see no hurry, with the chair of the panel in charge of Cha-cha considering synchronizing any plebiscite with the 2025 midterm elections.

In a radio interview on Monday, Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, maintained that aligning the Cha-cha plebiscite with the 2025 elections would be practical and less costly.

“My goal is – although the Constitution also sets the timeline – you must set the plebiscite 60 to 90 days after it’s passed by Congress,” Angara said.

“We have to reconcile that timeline of having the plebiscite along with the 2025 elections as the plebiscite is costly,” he pointed out.

He explained that synchronizing the plebiscite with the midterm elections would not only streamline the process but also yield substantial savings for the government.

“(A plebiscite] costs several billions of pesos,” Angara said. “While legally it’s there, we should also be practical to save the people’s money. Maybe that’s better, but that’s my personal opinion.”

“I have to consult my colleagues as to the timeline of the plebiscite because we will also be discussing efficiency and economics and how the people can save,” he added.

On Monday, the Senate deliberated on Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, which aims to amend specific economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, specifically on public services, education and advertising.

Angara expressed optimism that within a few months after the October filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2025 midterm elections, both the Senate and the House would have successfully reached a consensus on the particular economic provisions to be amended.

The road, however, to a consensus may still be long and tortuous as senators and congressmen continue to their word war.

‘It’s Zubiri’s timeline’

House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, meanwhile, told a press conference that it was Zubiri who gave the March timeline for the passage of RBH 6 to President Marcos and Romualdez.

“The timeline was not given by the House. It was SP who said it will be done by the first quarter. We were in fact elated when he said that. We said: at last, we can be able to accept it before the Holy Week,” Dalipe said.

“Here in the House, we take our word seriously,” the Zamboanga City congressman said, as he scoffed at the Senate leadership’s new timeline of October, which coincides with the Commission on Elections’ deadline for the filing of candidacy for the May 2025 midterm elections.

“What we are afraid of is the filing of COC (certificate of candidacy), it’s already campaign fever by then for the senatorial and local elections,” Dalipe explained.

By that time, politicians would all be busy campaigning, he added.

“We are pleading to our counterparts in the Senate to move because we are running against time. We have to keep up with the fast-developing pace of our Asian neighbors,” Dalipe maintained.

Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. also reminded Zubiri that he mentioned a July timeline at his press conference last Jan. 15.

“I don’t see any problem, there are only three provisions there. We can do it before the Holy Week,” Gonzales, a Pampanga congressman, quoted the Senate chief as saying.

He said he was wondering what Sen. Imee Marcos meant when she repeatedly mentioned “abolition” of the Senate, when such idea is nowhere to be found in RBH 6.

“What abolition? We’re talking about RBH 6, there’s no Senate abolition there. Maybe she (Imee) is talking about the people’s initiative, but where is PI now? The Comelec stopped the verification process,” he said.

“We don’t want a word war. We just released our collective sentiment. We have to stand as one, and HR 1562 already has 288 signatures,” he said. “Nevertheless, the House leadership, like what Speaker said, is always open for talks. We consider them as partners in nation-building.”

Rep. Rep. Geraldine Roman of Bataan, chairperson of the House committee on gender equality, also defended the chamber’s adoption of House Resolution 1562 signed by 288 of the 310 House members, reminding the senators and the public the word war with the senators didn’t start with the congressional representatives.

“It is what it is, we feel intensely for it. It is our collective sentiment. Are we not allowed to feel this way? What if we also hold a press conference attacking the SP, wear armbands, hold prayer rallies and hold an inquiry targeting the SP?” she said.

“We didn’t start this and in fact we didn’t want to have this prolonged. We did our part. The ball is now on the side of the Senate. And we believe they are very capable,” Roman told reporters “In here, we mean business. At least we’re not taking steps to bury it (RBH 6).”

She called on senators to practice “empathy, humility, sense of loyalty to the country and doing things that need to be done.”

Another senior administration lawmaker, Rep. Bong Teves of party-list TGP (Tau Gamma Phi), admitted that he took offense at the statement of his fraternity brother Sen. Joel Villanueva who complained the signature drive was causing traffic in Forbes Park in Makati City.

He claimed that Villanueva belittled party-list lawmakers even if he had been himself a member of Congress.

“Everybody knows that senators come to district and party-list congressmen to ask for votes every election. If I may ask: now that elections are drawing near, are you not going to ask favors from us again?” Teves said.

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