• Cha-Cha plebiscite eyed in 2016 polls

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    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. is eyeing the inclusion of the plebiscite or the vote on the amendment of the Philippine Constitution in the 2016 presidential election ballot.

    Belmonte, the author of the Resolution of Both Houses Number 1 that lifts the 40-percent limit on foreign ownership of public utilities in the country such as agricultural land, schools, the mass media, advertising, water and telecommunications, among others, made the announcement with Congress set to resume plenary debates on Charter Change (Cha-Cha) next week before it goes on a one-and-a-half-month break.

    “Instead of having a separate plebiscite for it, I am thinking of we can conduct it, for instance, coinciding with the next election [in 2016]. . . if it would be legal to just provide a question for the plebiscite in the ballot. A lot of people will participate because the presidential election has the biggest turnout. It will be well discussed,” the Speaker said in a chance interview.

    During a recent briefing of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Congress, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. said the poll body would not have enough resources to conduct a plebiscite by 2015, especially because they would be preoccupied with preparations for the 2016 Presidential elections.

    “Instead of having a supplemental budget for the plebiscite, maybe we could make it a rider in the 2016 elections,” Belmonte added.

    He then reiterated that Charter Change will benefit the country because it would pump in foreign capital for investments and jobs.

    “What we are doing is giving the next administration the elbow room to respond to the needs of the times. The growth is here in the East and we should be able to keep pace with that. We want investments here in the country, not the kind where foreigners profit here and they take their capital and profit back to their country,” Belmonte pointed out.

    The House leader espressed confidence that Charter Change will gain ground even if President Benigno Aquino 3rd has not endorsed it.

    “The approval of the President is not part of the legal process. [But] you would want the approval of the President because you don’t want him going against your proposal and failing to get the required three-fourths vote of Congress,” Belmonte said.

    “I want to feel him [President] out without asking. I really feel that as long as the President does not actively go against it and leaves this to Congress, we can get that three-fourths figure,” he added in closing.

    There are 290 members of the House of Representatives. A three-fourths vote would need the support of 218 members.

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