Speaker Velasco backs charter change but 'no more time' as COVID-19 persists

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 01:50 PM

Speaker Velasco backs charter change but 'no more time' as COVID-19 persists 1
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco takes his oath after being installed as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives during a special meeting with allied lawmakers at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City on Oct. 13, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Tuesday there was "no more time" to pursue charter change as government should focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Velasco, however, said there was a need to revisit current term limits, particularly the "very short" 3 year-term of lawmakers.

"To be honest po talaga I would want to push for charter change but I think there is really no more time, especially we’re focusing all our efforts sa COVID," he said in an online interview with the Daily Tribune.

"At the end of the day I really feel that we have to review, amend our charter. Kagaya po dito sa ating mga (For example when it comes to our) public officials, when we talk about term changes, to be honest, kinakailangan po natin (we really need it)." 

Velasco said the final decision was left to President Rodrigo Duterte, whose 2016 campaign promises include a shift of the Philippine government to a federal form through constitutional amendments.

"Ako po ay makikipag-usap sa ating mahal na Pangulo, kung sinabi po niya ay kinakailangan po nating gawin, ay gagawin po natin. But ako po personally, I feel na kailangan magfo-focus muna tayo sa mga COVID-19 responses," he said.

(I will talk to our dear President, if he says it needs to be done we will do it. But for me personally, I feel we need to focus on our COVID-19 response.)

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Velasco on Monday cancelled all House committee hearings to review and prioritize Duterte's legislative agenda.

The Speaker had assured Duterte that the House would work on his proposal for amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act, which is now pending before the Senate.

Velasco said he was also targeting the passage of a law on the use of the coco levy trust fund by Christmas. 

"Actually kausap ko ang chairman ng agriculture [committee] at sinabi ko I want the coco levy fund to be finished, at magandang regalong pamasko sa ating mga coco farmers," he said.

(I talked to the chairman of the House committee on agriculture and I said I want the coco levy fund to be finished because it's a good Christmas gift to our coco farmers.)

There are at least 5 bills pending before the House Committee on Agriculture and Food seeking to declare the coco levy fund as trust funds, providing for its management and utilization.