Senate open to Cha-cha

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2014 07:34 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2014 12:42 PM

MANILA -- The Senate is open to discussing amendments to the 1987 Constitution but prefers to let the House of Representatives tackle it first.

Charter change was among the legislative priorities discussed by congressional leaders at a breakfast meeting of Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, Majority Leaders Alan Peter Cayetano and Neptali Gonzales II, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and Representative Miro Quimbo at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Thursday.

The meeting was called to thresh out the legislative priorities even as Malacañang has yet to call the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), the mechanism for hammering out a common agenda.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Belmonte indicated that charter change will be limited to economic provisions and won't even cover the anticipated Bangsamoro peace agreement.

"Yes, ang napag-usapan namin unang-una from various angles yung Bangsamoro. We're being assured walang charter change involved itong pinupush namin sa House. A very simple providing a key to the doors of economy sa pamamagiitan pagsingit ng salitang unless otherwise provided by law. Sabi ng Senate sige tackle niyo yan tignan natin ano end product. Maraming tao di makapaniwala kaya gawin na yun lang without adding anything else. Sila tignan muna natin kung kaya niyo," he said.

Drilon said, "Tama po iyan. Sa amin sa Senado bukas po aming pag-iisip tungkol sa charter change lalo na binabanggit ng House na bubuksan debate tungkol sa mga aspeto sa ekonomiya."

"Nailipat ang debate sa Kongreso sa pamamagitan ng pagbabago ng paraan kung paano magkaron ng bagong polisiya sa ekonomiya. Hindi namin sinasabi palitan lahat, sinasabi ng Kamara gawan paraan na pwede pag-debatehan probisyon na nakakahadlang sa ekonomiya. Yun lang. Wala pang sinasabi palitan foreign equity ng dayuhan... real estate sinasabi lang mapag-usapan. Bukas kami doon."

He, however, could not yet say if they can secure President Aquino's support. The Chief Executive had repeatedly expressed coolness to the idea of amending the Constitution which came into force during his mother's time as President.

"We have no crystal ball, tignan natin... We will wait for the House," Drilon said.

Belmonte has been leading the charge for charter change, filing a resolution seeking to add the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to the charter's economic provisions in a move to empower Congress to change the provisions eventually.

Recto said, "I think it's a very good proposal, so that the economic provisions instead of a straight jacket in our constitution let it be debated in both chambers of Congress. So the constitution should be flexible when it comes to econ provisions...but that's not most important one. Maraming other bills we discussed one of the many as we identified as priority."

Belmonte added, "I think it's ok because what we have is a very simple thing and from the very beginning it was we in the House who are claiming it's possible to do this and confine yourself only to specific provision in economic provisions... Senate looks at it as a way of tackling substantial problems not through changes in the constitution but through prolonged discussions in Congress which would involve the President as well."

Belmonte wants to amend the Constitution by way of legislation -- with the final product submitted to the voters through a referendum.

The House Speaker, a businessman by profession, had been advocating that amendments to the economic provisions are needed to further boost the economy by further encouraging foreign investments.

During previous administrations, the Senate had thumbed down proposals to amend the Constitution fearing any amendments may touch upon sensitive provisions like term limits and the form of government.