Arroyo OK with separate voting on charter change for House, Senate

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said it would be "realistic" to conduct separate voting for both houses of Congress in amending the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for federalism.

"I agree to separate voting," Arroyo told reporters when asked whether she would prefer joint or separate voting for representatives and senators in a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

"If you want to move forward, you have to be realistic. Better to move forward and achieve something than to be very stubborn and achieve nothing," said Arroyo, who is also Pampanga 2nd District representative.

President Rodrigo Duterte wants the country to shift to a federal system of government. The Consultative Committee already passed its draft federal charter to Congress, which may accept or reject the body's proposals.

The House of Representatives already passed a joint resolution calling for both chambers of Congress to convene themselves into a Con-Ass, one of the 3 ways to amend the 1987 Constitution.

But senators strongly oppose joint voting, a scenario previously floated by ousted speaker Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez. Senators have argued that their power would be diminished in joint voting, as there are only 24 of them compared to 291 representatives in the House.

On Wednesday, August 1, Arroyo recalled the debate over voting jointly or separately ended in a "stalemate" when she wanted to amend the charter during her term as president. She said she doesn't want this to happen again.

"I ended my presidency with the same stalemate. You remember, the stalemate was whether voting separately and voting together. And then years later, we're in the same stalemate. We should move forward," said Arroyo.

She already instructed members of the House to "work hand in hand" with senators so they could find common ground and set the federal shift into motion.

Moving on

In the same interview, Arroyo said she no longer wants to look back on the coup her allies staged to make her the new leader of the House.

Instead, she wants to focus on pushing for Duterte's legislative agenda in the remaining months of the 17th Congress.

Arroyo was asked for her side of the story after her ally Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay Jr told ABS-CBN News how the ouster plot against Alvarez unfolded last week.

The formidable forces of Arroyo, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos came together to unseat Alvarez and replace him with the former president. (READ: The women behind the fall of Alvarez)

"I cannot verify his story because I wasn't there. I'm here now and I'm Speaker. I think, for me, I'd like to move on," said Arroyo.

"I'd like to move on because there are so many things that need to be done. Like today, there's going to be a committee [meeting] on the coco levy. So we hope to be able to finish that tonight so it can be hopefully ratified on Monday," she added.

During his 3rd State of the Nation Address, Duterte urged lawmakers to pass a bill that seeks to establish a coconut farmers' trust fund.

Arroyo already ordered lawmakers to fast-track the approval not just of the coco levy bill, but also the measures establishing the Department of Disaster Resilience, rice tariffication, and the National Land Use Act, which are some of Duterte's legislative priorities.

On Wednesday, Arroyo led the groundbreaking ceremony of the Greening the NLEX project of NLEX Corporation, which will plant 62,000 bougainvillea saplings from Balagtas, Bulacan to San Fernando City, Pampanga.

In attendance during the event were Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) chairman Manuel Pangilinan, MPIC president Jose Lim, Metro Pacific Tollways and NLEX Corporation president Rodrigo Franco, NLEX Corporation board directors Levy Laus and Arlyn Villanueva, NLEX Corporation senior vice president for tollways and development and engineering Raul Ignacio, and NLEX Road Warriors head coach Yeng Guiao.

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda, Pampanga Vice Governor Dennis Pineda, and San Fernando City Mayor Edwin Santiago were present as well. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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