Senators question need for 'cha-cha'


Posted at Jan 18 2018 04:20 PM

MANILA - Could charter change solve the nation's problems? 

Several senators had this question Thursday as they cautioned against rushing Constitutional amendments towards the shift to a federal form of government, a move being pushed by the President's allies. 

Sen. Grace Poe said supporters of federalism should not claim that it is a "magic pill" for all the country's ailments.

"If we wanted to strengthen local autonomy, some issues are better addressed through amending the Local Government Code. We need stronger institutions, not strongmen," Poe said in a statement.

She instead called for the passage of critical legislation, such as the Freedom of Information and Anti-Dynasty bills "to ensure meaningful participation of people in government, with or without Federalism."

Poe said economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution that limit foreign investment and economic growth may be amended through the Public Services Act.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said he is open to charter change, but underscored that it "might not be an end-all solution" to economic inequality.

"I'm open to "cha-cha" because our Constitution is not perfect, but I think the current limitations of the fundamental law can be addressed through legislation," Villanueva said.

The senators' reluctance to revise the Constitution is in contrast with the House's haste in adopting a resolution to convene as a constituent assembly to change the charter.

The Senate has yet to act on the House's resolution as the two legislative chambers remained in a deadlock on whether they should vote as a single chamber or as a bicameral entity.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the House needs the Senate's nod before it could proceed with its plan to overhaul the Constitution.

"If two bodies are needed to pass a bill changing the name of a barangay, then how can one house arrogate upon itself the far more important job of changing the basic law of the land?" Recto said in a statement. 

"There are ways of amending the Charter other than a dubious recourse that violates the Charter itself," he said.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said members of the House and Senate are expected to meet next week in a bid to break the deadlock on charter change.