Senate shuns Charter change amid House panel push

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2023 07:10 PM

Senate of the Philippines. Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB

MANILA -- Senators on Tuesday backed President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s pronouncement that Charter change is not a priority of the administration amid a House of Representatives panel's ongoing hearings on the controversial measure.

"Charter change was never really in our agenda... I welcome the statement of the President na hindi na priority 'yan because at this point in time, ayaw po nating pasukan ng isang divisive issue," Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

Zubiri said the Senate should instead focus on rehabilitation efforts after the peak of the pandemic.

"What the country needs to do now is to focus post-pandemic recovery and reconstruction. Doon muna tayo," he said. 

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva also agreed with Marcos' pronouncement.

"The President is correct to say that there are better things that need to be done first and that we can generate foreign investments without amending the Constitution... The proposal to change the economic provisions of the Constitution is not urgent at all," Pimentel said.

"Sumasangayon po tayo sa Pangulo na hindi urgent o napapanahon ngayon para sa Charter Change. May mga batas na po tayong naipasa para maka-attract ang bansa ng mas maraming foreign investors, at patuloy pa rin po ang Senado sa trabahong ito," Villanueva said.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano meanwhile described as "distraction" the House of Representatives' move to amend the 1987 Constitution.

"In a very controversial administration or political situation, ngayong galing tayo sa pandemic, additional distraction lang talaga ang Charter change... So now if President Marcos feels na hindi dapat ngayon, then I will agree with him," Cayetano said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Robin Padilla, who chairs the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes, said he has no hard feelings against Marcos "since it is not the President's mandate to take steps to amend the Constitution."

Padilla has also been conducting Charter change hearings in his panel.

But according to Zubiri and Sen. Grace Poe, it would difficult for Padilla to get the support of the Senate majority.

"Senator Robin Padilla can continue with his discussions on Charter change--pero hanggang committee report lang 'yon kasi kailangan niya pong maglabas ng committee report and we have to see if pipirmahan ba ng mga colleagues natin 'yong committee report. Kasi may kausap akong mga senador na hindi sila pabor na pag-usapan ang Charter change," Zubiri said.

"The pronouncement of the President will definitely affect the consensus on the need for Charter change. Kung hindi susuporta ang Pangulo, mas uunahin ng kongreso ang mga nasa priority list tulad ng Internet Transactions Act o CDC bill," Poe said.