EDITORIAL - Deliberate speed

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Deliberate speed

Congressmen said they wanted to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. Yesterday, President Marcos confirmed what Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri had announced the previous day: a preference for holding any plebiscite on Charter change simultaneously with the midterm elections in May 2025.

Fielding media questions prior to his departure for Australia, President Marcos said holding a plebiscite on Cha-cha before the 2025 elections would be costly and complicated. The message should be clear enough for those trying to stampede the nation into amending the Constitution ASAP ostensibly to lift restrictive economic provisions.

Commission on Elections Chairman George Garcia estimated that holding a plebiscite separately and earlier than the midterm polls would mean an additional P13 billion in expenses. Garcia has said the Comelec is ready to hold the plebiscite simultaneously with the midterm elections.

The President has reportedly said he wants the Senate to take the lead on Charter change. The chamber has yet to finalize its rules for Cha-cha deliberations. Senators hope to start plenary debates on the proposed changes before the President’s State of the Nation Address in July. They reportedly aim to finalize the proposed amendments by the fourth quarter of the year. That will provide sufficient time for the Comelec to prepare its presentation of the proposed Charter amendments for ratification in a nationwide plebiscite alongside the May 2025 elections.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are in disagreement over the mode of voting in case Congress convenes into a constituent assembly. A House-backed signature campaign for a people’s initiative is pushing for joint voting that will effectively marginalize the Senate, burying the voice of 24 senators under whatever the super majority in the House wants. People’s initiative proponents say they are keeping the signature gathering alive.

Whether the public pronouncement of President Marcos on Cha-cha will end the Congress feud remains to be seen. If economic Cha-cha pushes through, it will be the first time that the Constitution ratified in 1987 would be amended. Precedents are being set, and the process of amendment will be as critical as the amendments. Senators have set a more realistic timeline for economic Cha-cha, allowing for thorough public discussions and gathering of inputs from various sectors. In changing the basic law of the land, it’s prudent to move with deliberate speed.

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