Belmonte, Enrile want to discuss Cha-cha with PNoy

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 18 2012 03:50 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2012 08:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will seek a dialogue with President Aquino on the urgent need to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said Tuesday.

Gonzales, House majority leader, admitted that without Aquino’s support, the long overdue Charter change would not likely push through.

He said Belmonte and Enrile talked last week and “they were in agreement that they need to speak with the President.”

“If only to relate personally to the President their respective stand on the matter (of amending the Constitution) and if, despite their reasoning out with each other, the President remains adamant, then it would be a long and hard road ahead,” Gonzales told reporters.

“That’s why without the President’s support, we can only make slow and very little steps,” he said.

The House leader said that strictly speaking, the President is not involved in the process of amending the Constitution when the Senate and the House of Representatives convene as a constituent assembly or make separate approvals of proposed amendments.

He said unlike other bills that need the signature of the President, amendments can be directly endorsed to the Commission on Elections that will then hold a plebiscite for approval of the people.

“That’s strictly speaking. But politically speaking, if you don’t have the support of the President, particularly a President who has a high trust rating and who has a high approval rating, then the people will also think that this issue is not important,” Gonzales said.

He said Aquino’s support for constitutional reforms at this time is crucial because if he changes his mind toward the end of his term, critics might suspect his agenda.

“We will always be in a vicious circle when it comes to Charter change, that’s why early on when I was still a young congressman, I was already saying that we’re stuck with this kind of Constitution,” he said.

Gonzales said the Philippines, despite all its strengths and resources, remains an economic laggard because of structural defects that hinder the entry of investments.