• Speaker sees Charter Change debates next week

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    The long and winding road to Charter Change (Cha-Cha) or amending the 1987 Constitution will be charted next week even if lawmakers are divided on how to get President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s support to the measure.

    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., who represents the 4th District of Quezon City, made the announcment in the aftermath of the House leaders’ meeting with Joint Foreign Chambers and Philippine Business Groups in a consultative dialogue with an aim to craft a common economic legislative reform agenda that will sustain inclusive growth.

    The Speaker is the author of House Resolution No. 1 which seeks to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Charter by removing the provisions wherein foreigners are restricted to own 40 percent of public utilities, media entities, land and exploration of natural resources and 30 percent for advertising firms, and other business ventures since the majority percentage should be owned by Filipinos.

    Further, Belmonte’s proposal provides the phrase “as provided by law” as a safeguard that the amendments won’t tinker with the term limits of elected officials.

    “It will have to pass through the [House] Committee [on Constitutional Amendments]later this month. I expect it to hit the plenary by the latter part of March. I’m very confident it will pass with required 3/4 vote in the Chamber because it will prove that it is possible to pass amendments to the Constitution that touches only a very limited portion without fooling around with term limits, federalism, and all of those things which some people find controversial,” Belmonte pointed out.

    Reps. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmarinas, Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela and Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina City are optimistic that such head start is what Cha-Cha needs to get going, saying that Congress’ support for the move can eventually soften the opposite stance of President Aquino.

    “We have good chances that Cha-Cha will succeed. Once there is a great once support from the House for Cha-Cha, that would perhaps be the appropriate time for Speaker Belmonte and the leaders of the various political parties forming part of the coalition in the House to seek audience with President Aquino and explain why charter change is necessary,” Barzaga, the External Vice President of the National Union Party  which is allied with the Aquino administration, said in a text message.

    “The House at large is gung-ho about amending the Charter. If the President sees that amending the Charter will gain traction in both houses of Congress, he would have no choice but to join the march,” Aggabao, a stalwart of the Nationalist People’s Coalition which is also allied with the Aquino administration, added in a separate talk.

    The Chief Executive is not convinced that tinkering with the Constitution will guarantee development.

    Teodoro, for his part, invoked that any law or revision of the Constitution is under te mandate of Congress.

    “Charter Change will prosper with the consensus of the lawmakers,” Teodoro, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) chaired by President Aquino, insisted.

    But for Rep. Romero Quimbo of Marikina, the Cha-Cha won’t go anywhere without the President’s support.

    “I believe in Charter Change but we have to work on convincing the President first even before we submit it to plenary discussion and debate. It cannot succeed without the President [on board],” Quimbo, also a member of the ruling LP, countered. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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