Gatchalian says Senate 'will push back' vs charter change during COVID-19 pandemic

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2020 04:38 PM | Updated as of Jul 23 2020 04:39 PM

Sen. Win Gatchalian presides over a technical working group meeting in the Senate on July 7, 2020. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said that the Senate "will push back" against proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution, saying it is only a distraction amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

It is possible for the Senate not to entertain charter change even in 2021 or shortly after the expected end of the global pandemic, Gatchalian told reporters in a press conference.

"The Senate will push back [because] this issue will divide us. It will divide our attention in fighting COVID," he said.

"I don't think cha-cha will happen even next year because we have to deal with economic issues in 2021," he said.

"Even if we find a vaccine this year and medicine, 2021 will be a challenge," he said.

Gatchalian agreed with other lawmakers' opinion that the timing for the push for charter change is "going to be a big issue."

"Aside from it's not the right time... when you open the Constitution, kahit sabihin mong economic provisions lang, puwede sila maglagay ng iba pa (even if you say you will just touch the economic provisions, they can make other insertions)," he said.

"In my opinion it's not the right thing to talk about," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Richard Gordon earlier opposed moves to resume charter change discussions during the global pandemic, saying Filipinos "need food, not charter change."

Talk of charter change resurfaced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after the House of Representatives said it would resume discussions about the shift to federalism.

The House said it was in response to the appeal of several mayors to ease some economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution to allegedly help Filipinos survive the economic crisis.

The shift to a federal form of government was among the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte, but the Palace earlier said that it is not a priority "for now."

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also denied that Duterte has been talking to the Cabinet about charter change.