Recto withdraws support for Cha-Cha, opposes federalism
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is withdrawing a resolution he filed to support charter change (Cha-Cha), saying he no longer wants to take part in President Rodrigo Duterte's plans to tinker with the 1987 Constitution.
Recto said in a media interview on Wednesday, February 22, that he only wanted to amend the Charter to open the economy to foreign investors and boost the country's growth. The administration's direction to shift to a federal form of government will accomplish the opposite, he said.
"We know that the position of the President's party is to amend it for political purposes, particularly federalism. I think that will do more harm than good. Dagdag burokrasya, dagdag buwis, dagdag red tape (More bureaucracy, more taxes, more red tape). And if we're growing by 7% to 10% today, by doing that, we might destroy the economy," the senator said.
Recto's resolution is one of several proposals referred to the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, which conducted a hearing on Wednesday.
Recto, an economist, previously filed Joint Resolution No. 2 to amend economic and social provisions of the Constitution.
"Only economic changes, if at all. But since that is not the plan, I will withdraw," he said.
Shifting the country's form of government to federalism has been one of the key advocacies Duterte pushed during the campaign. The first president from Mindanao wants more power to be devolved from the central government. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)
But Recto said a lot of the proposals can be done by amending only the Local Government Code.
"I totally oppose federalism. I think we can do it better by just amending the Local Government Code," the senator said.
Dominated by Duterte's allies, the House of Representatives has made headway on charter change proposals. It is expected to reach plenary deliberations by May.
The Senate's timeline, however, remains unclear. Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon, who chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, said they may have to conduct hearings in the provinces.
"We are reviewing the necessity whether or not we should conduct out-of-town hearings. But we have not decided on that," Drilon said.
Recto said his withdrawal of support for charter change has nothing to do with fears that Duterte will amend the Constitution to make it easier for the president to declare martial law. (READ: Duterte: Give president sole power to declare martial law)
But he said anything can happen. "Once you open it up, you can amend anything." – Rappler.com