Public consultations on Charter change pushed

Posted on March 12, 2014

HOUSE SPEAKER Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. yesterday urged members of the House of Representatives to conduct public consultations in their respective districts on the resolution seeking to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution when Congress goes on break starting this weekend.

"It is understood that they will do consultations on the Cha-cha [Charter change] in their respective districts this break. That is why we set it for plenary approval on May, when we resume session to give us more than one and a half months to ponder and to consult," Mr. Belmonte told reporters in a press conference yesterday.

The House Speaker said he will also use the break to convince President Benigno S. C. Aquino III to support his resolution that will ease the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Charter. "Well, these 45 days will also give me a chance to have a long talk with him. Hopefully, during this break by the Congress, we have a real opportunity to discuss that [Cha-cha] with him," he added.

To allay fears that moves to amend the Constitution is politically motivated and will be used to extend terms of elected officials, Mr. Belmonte reiterated that his resolution will only focus on amending certain economic provisions of the Constitution and nothing else.

"I just feel that many people are very apprehensive that this is a disguise for extending or lifting term limits and other political changes and we assure that it is not," he noted.

House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali M. Gonzales II said the proposed resolution needs the vote of three-fourths of all members of the House and the Senate, with both chambers voting separately.

Should the Charter change push hurdle Congress, it will be sent to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which will conduct a plebiscite.

Messrs. Belmonte and Gonzales said the Executive branch should provide a budget for the plebiscite under the annual appropriations. "Almost everything you do requires money, and you try to look at its potential advantage, I think the potential advantages are tremendous in this case, and so they should look for funding, and I think it’s possible to do that," he said.

Mr. Gonzales added: "Under the Constitution, it is mandatory that we inform the Comelec and mandatory on the part of the Comelec to conduct a plebiscite, and they should fund it."

Mr. Belmonte has earlier filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1 at the opening of the 16th Congress last July 5 seeking to change the Charter. -- I.C.C. Delavin