Charter Change (Cha-Cha) or the amendment of the 1987 Constitution is unlikely to happen because the government does not have resources to conduct a plebiscite for it, House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said.
Colmenares was alluding to the Resolution of Both Houses 1 that lifts the 40-percent restriction on foreign ownership of public utilities, which has been stuck in the period of sponsorship in the House.
Colmenares noted that during the recent briefing of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on its preparations for the 2016 presidential polls before Congress, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. already said that the Comelec had zero budget for a charter-change plebiscite.
The Bayan Muna lawmaker explained that if Congress approves Cha-Cha, the Comelec should conduct the plebiscite within 45 to 90 days as prescribed by the Constitution.
“Cha-Cha is dead. The Comelec said they need a P6-billion to P7-billion budget for the conduct of Cha-Cha plebiscite. We asked them, if Congress approves this, can you do this by August this year? They said, no way because [we]have no budget. Why should we waste our time discussing Cha-Cha when we do not have the money for it?” Colmenares asked.
“And even if we have the budget, why should we waste P7 billion for an exercise that is detrimental to our people? It would be better if we spent such an amount on calamity victims,” he added.
The lawmaker urged Congress to instead focus on passing the Freedom of Information bill, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act and the P125 across-the-board wage hike.
Further, he believed that lawmakers would not risk pushing for Cha-Cha or passing a supplemental budget for it, considering that Cha-Cha has always been unpopular with the public.
“They can try to pass a supplemental budget for it, but how would that look like to our people? We have a supplemental budget for Cha-Cha and yet we don’t have supplemental budget for education and health?” the solon asked.