Not appropriate time to pursue political amendments to Charter

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

April 4, 2024, 10:00 pm

<p>File photo</p>

File photo

MANILA – A lawmaker on Thursday reiterated that the House of Representatives is bent on amending solely the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin made this comment after Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Larry Gadon urged Congress to include political amendments in the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha).

During the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview over PTV4, Garin said it is not the appropriate time to broach the idea of amending political provisions in the Constitution.

"I cannot speak on behalf of the leadership of the House but as far as I am concerned, walang naging ganoon usapan (there have been no talks [of introducing political amendments]). We are very bent and sincere in pushing for economic reforms of the Constitution," she said.

Garin argued that pursuing political constitutional amendments would only create public distrust, citing a recent Pulse Asia survey that found a huge percentage of Filipinos were unsupportive of amending the Constitution.

"I believe it’s not the appropriate time to deal with that… That is where the distrust of the public is coming from eh, kaya mahirap na isama iyon sa usaping Cha-cha lalo na at this critical point of time na marami ang hindi aware na iyong ating Konstitusyon ay de-kahon, na hindi mo magalaw. It's very inflexible so much so na kapag may problema ay walang magawa at hindi matugunan ng gobyerno (that's why it is difficult to mix political reforms in Cha-cha proposals, especially at this critical point in time wherein a lot of people are unaware that our Constitution is so restrictive that you can't do anything. It is very inflexible so much so that the government is unable to address any issues that arise)," she said.

Garin noted that the Cha-cha proposals would have better chances of public approval if they focused solely on amending economic provisions and steered clear of political provisions.

"Mahirap ihalo, kasi previously, kaya kung tingnan mo sa Pulse Asia Survey, niri-reject ng karamihan dahil naging chop suey eh. Sinama doon sa mga katanungan iyong proposal on no election, term extension, abolition of Senate. So nagiging political ang usapin, instead of bringing it to the platform of a discussion na aamyendahan natin ang Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas para guminhawa ang buhay ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino (It's difficult to mix them because previously, in the Pulse Asia survey, many respondents rejected [Cha-cha] because it's akin to 'chop suey.' The survey questions included proposals on no election, term extension, and abolition of Senate. So the proposals became political instead of bringing it to the platform of a discussion about amending the Constitution to uplift the lives of every Filipino family)," she said.

Gadon, in a letter he delivered to the House on Wednesday, suggested extending the term of local officials, including members of the House of Representatives, governors, vice governors, board members, mayors, vice mayors, and councilors, to six years.

He pointed out that triennial elections incur substantial costs, draining billions in public funds and imposing financial burdens on candidates.

“As discussions on amending the economic provisions of the Constitution unfold, it presents a significant opportunity to consider, including changes to the political provisions as well. Certain political provisions have proven to be costly and redundant, and amending them could lead to improved governance and greater benefits for the people,” Gadon said.

Gadon, however, emphasized the need to maintain the term limit for the President, Vice President, and senators, with no possibility of reelection, as well as retain existing provisions on succession.

The Pulse Asia survey conducted March 6 to 10 showed 88 percent of the 1,200 adult respondents are against amending the 1987 Constitution while only 8 percent favor amendments.

Of the 88 percent, 74 percent opposed changes this year or any other time; 14 percent said the Constitution may be amended some other time; and 4 percent responded "they don't know" if the Constitution should be "amended or not amended at this time."

In March, the House approved in the final reading Resolution of Both Houses 7 (RBH 7), which aims to amend specific economic constitutional provisions related to public utilities, education, and advertising. (PNA)