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Charter change gets support of citizens and 256 local officials

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AT LEAST 256 local chief executives have expressed their support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s push to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Interior and Local Government department said on Tuesday.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Constitutional Reform has also obtained 22,469 signatures various citizens who support charter change, the agency said.

Broad support for constitutional change should convince senators and congressmen to amend the charter, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said at a briefing in Quezon City yesterday.

“We see this as an opportunity for government to become more responsive to the regions,” he said. “The feedback we are getting from the public has been very positive.”

Mr. Malaya said they are reaching out to everyone, including those in far-flung areas, to inform and educate the public about the need to change the three-decade-old basic law.

The task force last week submitted its second set of proposed changes to the Charter to the House constitutional amendments committee. It wants to strengthen political parties, ban turncoats and political dynasties as part of charter change.

The task force said the anti-political dynasty provision of the 1987 Constitution should be made self-executing. It also wants to create a democracy fund for campaign finance reforms, and extend the terms of local government officials to five years with one re-election.

The second set of proposed changes cover political and electoral reforms to strengthen democracy and improve governance. It also seeks to introduce equality provisions to ensure more funds flow to the provinces.

Mr. Duterte created the task force, which is headed by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año, and is composed of 15 government agencies.

Mr. Malaya said the local officials who support charter change are from 60 provinces in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Among those who expressed their support for constitutional amendments were seven governors, 11 vice governors and at least 105 mayors. The rest were vice mayors and other local officials.

Mr. Malaya said they plan to submit the pledge of support from various local officials and ordinary citizens to Congress next year.

He also urged the Senate to start public hearings on proposed amendments to the Constitution.

“As soon as we’re called by the Senate, we will also submit to them the package of reforms we earlier submitted to the House of Representatives,” he said.

Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said charter change should be initiated by 2020 because politicians including lawmakers will be busy preparing for national elections two years later.

“The window of opportunity is getting smaller because of the dynamics of the 2022 elections,” he said at the same briefing.

The task force earlier asked Congress to institutionalize a Supreme Court ruling that the just share of local government units must come from all national taxes and not just from national internal revenue taxes.

The task force also supports the “foreign ownership equity provisions” now pending in Congress, saying restrictive economic provisions dissuade foreigners from investing here. — Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star





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