By Macon Araneta FilAm Star Correspondent
The fate of Charter change (Cha-cha) will be significantly affected by the 2022 presidential election, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
Drilon said this after President Duterte renewed his call to amend the 1987 Constitution, adding that in past hearings, the Senate learned the public does not want the Constitution changed.
He said the next presidential election may still be three years away but this early Drilon could sense some of his colleagues casting a “moist eye” on the presidency, saying it will be the “biggest factor” in their vote on Cha-cha.
“It is difficult to predict at this time how the senators will vote considering the new composition of the Senate. But what is becoming clear is the presidency in 2022 will play a huge role in how our colleagues will treat this renewed call for Charter change and decide on their vote,” Drilon said.
Drilon, a four-time Senate President, believed that the Senate will maintain its independence in handling the divisive Cha-cha as it has shown in the past.
“The Senate always prides itself as independent of Malacañang. The people can always rely on that, so they can be assured that any attempt to revise or amend the Constitution to give way for federalism will undergo the regular process and will not be railroaded,” Drilon said.
“And the minority will be more vigilant against attempts to rush any bill, not only Cha-Cha,” he assured.
Drilon said there is no effort or discussion yet in the upper chamber regarding any amendments to the Constitution.
He noted that 2018 surveys clearly showed that majority of the Filipino people are opposed to Charter change and federalism.
“I don’t think that people had a change of heart in the past months for them to favor Cha-cha. It is clear that Filipinos do not see charter change and federalism as the solution to the problems of hunger, poverty, unemployment and lawlessness,” Drilon said.
Drilon said that a resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution, either through a Constitutional Assembly or Constitutional Convention, will be referred to the committee, which will conduct hearings and submit a report.
Under the Constitution, amendments or revisions may be proposed through a constitutional assembly by a vote of three-fourths of all members or through a constitutional convention where the people elect delegates to propose amendments and revisions to the Constitution.
As former chair of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes that heard Cha-cha last Congress, Drilon recalled that due to the Filipinos’ high level of distrust in Congress, the people, including three former chief justices of the Supreme Court, believed that the best method to amend or revise the constitution is through a constitutional convention rather than a constitutional assembly.
Among them are former Chief Justices Hilario Davide, Reynato Puno and Artemio Panganiban; and former Supreme Court Associate Justices Adolfo Azcuna and Eduardo Nachura, who raised the same opinion last Congress that a Constitutional Convention should be adopted. Puno heads the consultative body that the President formed to review the Constitution.
The Senator cited a recent pronouncement by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Benjamin Diokno saying that Charter change could adversely affect the country’s economic growth.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the Senate minority bloc remains opposed to the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) to amend the 1987 Constitution and federalism.
“Yes, until the last time na nag-usap kami, tutol po kami sa Charter Change ni Presidente,” Hontiveros said.
She said, “He has been peddling about federalism but that is half-baked. It has different shapes but does not guarantee capacity for governance or financial autonomy- those that will become federal states.”
The Senator noted that the minority bloc remains “united” in its stance that a Constitutional Convention should be the appropriate process to change the charter.