Cha-cha shelved anew

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With interest on Charter change waning, the House of Representatives is not expected to tackle the issue until next year, according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

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The House committee on constitutional amendments approved a resolution calling for a Constituent Assembly in October 2016. Since then, the subject has not been discussed in the chamber.

A Constituent Assembly means the House and the Senate will directly propose and vote on the constitutional amendments.

“I really don’t know because the ball is in Malacañang’s court. There is already an EO (Executive Order) creating the Constitutional Commission (ConCom). There are a handful of people interested [to be a part of the ConCom]. In fact, a lot of people submitted their names. But maybe, Malacañang is just swamped with work,” Alvarez told reporters.

“But definitely, if it won’t happen this year, Congress will work on it (Charter change) next year, with or without the commission,” Alvarez added.

The ConCom will have 25 members and will have six months to submit its recommendations.

“We could convene as Constituent Assembly next year. The earlier, the better, because there will be elections in 2019,” Alvarez said.

“I don’t have a problem with the House and the Senate voting separately, but we have to know first what we are going to put in the new Constitution before we vote on it,” he added.

Alvarez also gave assurances that Congress will grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic problem.

“I think we can pass the emergency powers bill. Maybe we can pull it off before we go on recess [three weeks from now]. It will be in June,” Alvarez said.

The President last year asked congress to speed up moves that will allow the country to shift to a federal system of government.

However, Rep. Rufino Biazon of Muntinlupa City, a member of the ruling PDP-Laban, earlier said that pronouncements on Charter change do not contain details on how each future federal state will benefit from the change in the system.

“The sound bites are there, but we have not felt the tremors. I don’t feel there is a move in Congress towards that, and one of the reasons is that it is still unclear what exactly are the changes that will happen to the system. We had a briefing on federalism and its advantages, and we asked how would it be implemented in the Philippines. We were told that it is still being studied,” Biazon told The Manila Times.

“There’s the proposed separate taxation. But there are no specifics on how different would a state tax (local) to a federal (national) tax? Aside from the fact that it could mean higher taxes to be paid, how do we know what is for collection as state tax and a federal tax? These are yet to be explained,” Biazon added.

Biazon said that it would be difficult to stir public support for federalism because the concrete benefits for the future federal states are not outlined in a working draft.

“The first question that we need to answer to our constituents in this shift to federalism is, what’s in it for us? In my case, what’s in it for Muntinlupa? We were told that it is for the good of the country, for peace in Mindanao. People will then ask, how about the others who are not from Mindanao?” Biazon pointed out.

“There is also this proposal that the provinces with bigger economies can share it with the smaller ones under federalism by grouping them together. Of course, the bigger ones like those from Metro Manila would ask, why would our resources be trimmed for others when we won such resources?”he added.

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