charter change

‘No doubt charter change needed,’ but timing must be right – Cayetano

Mara Cepeda
‘No doubt charter change needed,’ but timing must be right – Cayetano

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano during plenary hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 09, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

'I think people should discuss it, but they should not worry that it will be rammed down their throat,' says Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said there is “no doubt” the 1987 Constitution needs to be changed, but the timing must be right for it to push through.

This was the Speaker’s response on Monday, July 20, when asked to comment on the House committee on constitutional amendments’ plan to soon discuss the charter change proposals of over 1,400 mayors.

“Well, let me first state na trabaho naman ni Chairperson Rufus [Rodriguez] kasi ‘yon ang committee ‘nya, and you can expect him to continually push for it. Having said that, nagmu-multi-task po tayo, and wala pong kaduda-duda na kailangan po ng charter change. And question lang sa ating lahat, timing,” Cayetano said in a chance interview in Taguig City. 

(Well, let me first state that’s the job of Chairperson Rufus Rodriguez because that’s his committee and you can expect him to continually push for it. Having said that, we will be multi-tasking, and there is no doubt charter change is needed. The only question is the timing.)

The Speaker said Congress has to be “practical” about the timing, since charter change talks are being revived in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Holding a plebiscite would not be easy, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge and Filipinos are still advised to stay home unless necessary for them to go outside.

There are 3 ways to amend the Constitution: through the Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly, and the People’s Initiative. A proposed constitutional amendment would only become valid if Filipino voters approve during a plebiscite.

“So very idealistic pa rin ang Kongreso diyan (So Congress is very idealistic on this), but we’re also practical. I think people should discuss it, but they should not worry that it will be rammed down their throat,” Cayetano said.

“We only want constitutional change if the people want it, and want it very badly, that’s why dini-discuss (we’re discussing it),” added the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman. 

House committee on constitutional amendments chair Rodriguez already wants his panel to deliberate on the two charter change proposals of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) within the first two weeks of Congress’ reopening of session next Monday, July 27.

The LMP wants to lift the restrictions on foreign investments and also institutionalize the Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court in the Constitution.

The House panel had been holding hearings on other proposed amendments of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Federalism and Constitutional Reform in January, just before the COVID-19 crisis hit the country. 

But Cha-Cha discussions were put on hold when the 18th Congress adjourned its session in March, the same month COVID-19 cases started spiking.

A shift to federalism – where the country would be divided into autonomous regions – was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, who counts the Speaker among his loyal allies. 

While Duterte did not mention Cha-Cha in his 4th SONA in July 2019, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) vowed to continue pushing for it anyway.

In May this year, the DILG renewed its push to revise the Constitution by gathering signatures from Filipinos to press lawmakers to back charter change.

At the time, Rodriguez told the DILG that “cha-cha can wait” since Congress was not in session then and the government needed to focus on its pandemic response. – Rappler.com

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.