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MANILA, Philippines – The chair of the House panel on constitutional amendments called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to shelve its bid to amend the Constitution, as lawmakers are doing the same in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
House panel chair Rufus Rodriguez relayed this message to the DILG on Thursday, May 21, as the department renewed its push to revise the 1987 Constitution by gathering signatures from Filipinos to press lawmakers to back charter change (Cha-Cha).
The Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District representative said the House does not have the time to push for constitutional amendments at it is focused on tackling bills on the government’s COVID-19 response.
“Cha-Cha can wait. We will first have to attend to measures that will save lives and the livelihood of our people. So my message to Cha-Cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: Stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
He said his panel is suspending its consideration of the proposed changes to the Charter as well. Rodriguez said he would inform Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano about this decision.
“I am inclined to recommend to the Speaker that we shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely so we can focus on measures to fight this pandemic, help our affected people, and prepare the nation for post-lockdown and post-coronavirus disease, or the new-normal life,” Rodriguez said.
In January – before the coronavirus crisis hit the Philippines – the House committee on constitutional amendments reopened its Charter change hearings to discuss the amendments proposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Federalism and Constitutional Reform.
Several provisions were controversial and did not sit well with lawmakers. These include the proposed anti-dynasty provisions and the creation of the Regional Development Authority, which the IATF already scrapped following strong opposition from House members.
Legislators also opposed the IATF proposal to regulate campaign spending and contributions, calling it “stupid” and “unrealistic.”
A shift to federalism – where the country would be divided into autonomous regions – was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte.