Arroyo denies charter change railroaded in House

Mara Cepeda
Arroyo denies charter change railroaded in House
Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says the House of Representatives' moves to amend the 1987 Constitution are 'part of the democratic process'

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained that moves to amend the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for federalism are not being fast-tracked in the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, December 5, reporters asked the Pampanga 2nd District congresswoman to respond to criticism that charter change is being railroaded in the House. Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15 – which contains the House’s draft federal charter – was approved on 2nd reading the day before. (READ: LIST: Major constitutional changes the House wants under federalism)

“It’s part of the democratic process. There was a debate, it was voted on, we sent it to them. It’s part of the democratic process,” said Arroyo, a former president who had tried but failed to amend the charter during her term.

Arroyo said RBH 15’s 3rd and final reading will “hopefully” be on Monday, December 10.

While RBH 15 indeed went through deliberations and viva voce voting or a vote of ayes and nays at the plenary, the debates lasted for only 3 session days.

Unlike the constitution drafted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Consultative Committee, RBH 15 does not set a specific number of federal states to be created.

Instead, a federal state may be created upon a petition addressed to Congress by contiguous, compact, and adjacent provinces, highly urbanized and component cities, and cities and municipalities in metropolitan areas through a “resolution of their respective bodies.” The resolution must be approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite to be held in the political units affected.

RBH 15 has also been drawing flak for its controversial provisions, including the lifting of term limits for lawmakers, the abolition of the anti-political dynasty provision, and the revival of the two-party system in the country.

But on Wednesday, Arroyo once again said that she had only inserted the provision regarding the creation of federal states.

“I did not participate in the debate because I have always said that my only contribution there is the mechanism for setting up the federal states. The others are the other contributions of the other congressmen. They should answer for themselves,” said the Speaker.

Arroyo has already conceded RBH 15 will not be passed during the 17th Congress, but she still hopes to “bring it as far as we can bring it” in the House. But ranking senators already said RBH 15 will be “dead on arrival” at the Senate. (READ: House aims to pass draft federal charter by early 2019)

During Arroyo’s presidency, her administration attempted charter change through all 3 means available under the 1987 Constitution – Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly, and People’s Initiative. But all attempts failed. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.