Senate leaders say Charter change no priority during COVID-19 crisis

Katrina Domingo and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2020 02:14 PM

MANILA - Amending the Constitution is "not listed" among the Senate's priorities, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday, a day after the House of Representatives said it would resume charter change discussions when session resumes next week.

The House decided to tackle charter change amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis allegedly as a response to the appeal of some 1,486 mayors to amend the Constitution.

"It's not listed in our priorities," Sotto told ABS-CBN News in a text message when sought for comment.

"But if the House of Representatives will transmit to us then we will take it up," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the timing of the push for charter change.

"Regardless of the merit, the issue on Cha-cha is the timing," he said.

"Should we debate on Cha-cha now, which is a very divisive issue, or should we concentrate all our efforts and resources on economic recovery?" he said.

The Senate Committee on Local Government "can look into" the appeal of some local officials to ease economic restrictions, instead of resorting to an overhaul of the 1987 Constitution, Sotto said.

The appeal for charter change resurfaced this year after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) launched a signature campaign to push for federalism as the Philippines battled the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shift to a federal form of government to decentralize power from the capital region was among President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promises in 2016.

Despite the DILG's push for federalism, Malacañang said that charter change is "not a priority" at the moment.