Philippine legislators stop pushing for charter change

House drops Cha-Cha

April 2, 2009, 7:46pm


Grim prospects of a resounding defeat in the 2010 national elections have prompted top officials of Lakas-CMD, the country’s most dominant political party, to give up the Charter Change (Cha-Cha) bid that is being espoused by its members in the House of Representatives.

In a meeting of the party’s executive committee headed by Speaker Prospero Nograles last Wednesday, the party decided to opt instead for a post-election Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) and elect delegates simultaneously with the local and national elections on May 10, 2010.

During the meeting held at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City, party officials debated heatedly on the Cha-Cha issue and decided to give emphasis on the seeming unpopularity of the bid to amend the 1987 Constitution.

The consensus reached was to withdraw any Cha-Cha bid and push for Con-Con.

A report about this consensus will be submitted to Malacañang Monday, it was learned by Manila Bulletin.

The Bulletin also learned that Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri was tasked to discuss the issue with the media, but later backed out. He called off an appearance at the Usaping Balita News Forum Thursday morning. Zubiri presided over the meeting when the Lakas-CMD stalwarts took up the Cha-Cha issue.

Nograles is a principal author of House Resolution No. 737, which is expected to be scheduled for plenary deliberation when the Lower House resumes session on April 13.

“I-withdraw n’yo na ang Cha-Cha. Matatalo lang tayo sa 2010 pag tinuloy n’yo yan. Cha-Cha is a very unpopular issue; ayaw ng tao dyan,” Zubiri was overheard saying during the meeting.

During the discussion, Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Belma Cabilao was also overheard saying that while she agrees in the holding of a Con-Con, the delegates have to be elected after the 2010 national and local elections, as the Con-Con has nothing to do with the upcoming political derby.

Her proposal was overruled. The party leaders later decided to push for the election of Con-Con delegates in 2010.

Asked about the developments in the meerting, Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos, president of the Union of Local Administrators of the Philippines, confirmed that Lakas will withdraw support for the Cha-Cha.

“Maganda ang napag-usapan namin ngayon. We have decided to withdraw our support for the Cha-Cha,” Abalos stated.

Several party officials who emerged from the meeting also confirmed the Lakas-CMD consensus but pointed to Zubiri as the appointed spokesman on the matter.

“Yes, we have decided that we will no longer pursue our bid for Cha-Cha. Cha-Cha is a very serious matter that could affect our chances in the 2010 elections if it is pursued,” said one party leader who requested anonymity.

The source added: “By Monday next week, leaders of the party will meet with President (Gloria) Arroyo to present the official party position.”

Discussing the issue with reporters at the Usaping Balita News Forum, Nograles said the Charter Change bid will continue in the Lower House, adding that he will call an all-party caucus to discuss the issue when session resumes April 13.

However, Nograles said that if no action is taken by the Lower House on the issue until June 6, he would voluntarily withdraw his resolution.

The Nograles-sponsored House Resolution 737 seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution has already been approved at the committee level.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Vilafuerte has drafted another Charter Change resolution, this time seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to process the amendments.

The resolution which has reportedly enjoyed the backing of some 175 congressmen has yet to be filed for committee action.



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