'Clarify Cha-cha stand'

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 18 2014 09:20 AM | Updated as of Aug 18 2014 05:20 PM

MANILA - Administration allies in the House of Representatives are urging President Aquino to clarify his statement on Charter change (Cha-cha).

They made the appeal as members of the House majority coalition led by the ruling Liberal Party (LP) wait for clearer signals from Malacañang to formally start their Cha-cha initiative.

Party-list group Akbayan, an administration ally, lamented that the situation is now confused, with Palace spokesmen adding to the confusion by apparently contradicting Aquino’s declaration that he was open to Cha-cha and even the lifting of term limits for elective officials.

In urging Aquino to clarify his Cha-cha statement, Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez said such a clarification would “avoid unnecessary confusion.”

“Amid the already confusing and complex state of affairs the people find themselves in right now, political clarity is important. The government must not play into the hands of those who will use and twist the President’s opinion to feed the obfuscation created by those who stand to benefit the most from an undermined Aquino government,” they said.

They said Aquino “must make his position on Charter change clearer.”

“Even as the President is driven by good intentions in his openness to amend the country’s Charter to check the power of the Supreme Court, an expressed openness to Charter change in the current context can be seized upon by vested interests out to advance a self-serving political or economic agenda,” they stressed.

“Akbayan shares President Aquino’s hope that the momentum of reform he has begun can be sustained in the next term. We are looking forward to how these reforms would continue beyond his six-year term. We also agree that the next president must approximate the same integrity and commitment to the reform process that President Aquino has demonstrated to carry on the campaign for meaningful change,” they added.

For his part, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the House minority bloc and principal advocate of Cha-cha via constituent assembly (con-ass), said he will consult with House leaders before filing his con-ass resolution.

“It would be a futile exercise if the majority coalition will not support it. Members of the majority must seize the moment. The President has already provided the opening. The time for Cha-cha is ripe. It is now or maybe never,” he said.


On the other hand, Akbayan’s nemesis, the Bayan Muna party-list group, claimed that the President did make that declaration, and that Palace officials speaking for him are now trying to “belittle or withdraw” his statement in an attempt at “damage control.”

For Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, two of Aquino’s impeachment endorsers, the President made a categorical statement that he is open to Cha-cha in his recent television interview.

They said the Palace “is now trying to belittle or even withdraw President Aquino’s Cha-cha and term extension statement because of the heavy flak it received from all sectors of society and the growing mass protests against it.

“All this talk about Cha-cha being merely a messaging ploy to diffuse public perception of President Aquino as a lame duck president is untrue. This is not a trial balloon but a serious attempt at Cha-cha no different from President Arroyo’s supposedly innocent ‘Let the great debate on Charter change begin’ in 2005,” the two said.

They added that Aquino’s television interview was a signal to his allies to rally support for Cha-cha.

Political groups allied with the LP, including the National Unity Party (NUP) and Party-list Coalition (PLC), said they have not discussed Cha-cha and con-ass.

“We have yet to take a party stand on those issues,” Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, a leader of NUP, said.

Speaking for PLC, Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said they would soon meet on Cha-cha and con-ass.