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MANILA, Philippines – The fresh push for Charter change (Cha-Cha) is making headway after Senate President Migz Zubiri said that the upper chamber will take the lead in reviewing amendments to the Constitution’s economic provisions.
Zubiri made the announcement on Monday, January 15, after meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier this month.
It was a different tune for Zubiri as he had opposed moves for Cha-Cha last year during his first year as Senate leader.
“The President agreed with us that the proposal was too divisive, and asked the Senate to instead take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution. In this way, we can preserve our bicameral nature of legislation,” he said on Monday.
Zubiri himself filed his own proposal to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution. Senators Sonny Angara and Loren Legarda were co-authors.
Zubiri’s proposal only includes amendments to the operation of public utilities and education services. It has no political proposals, such as lifting term limits.
To reassure the public, Zubiri said the President wants the House to adopt the upper chamber’s Cha-Cha version to rule out any amendments outside the economic provisions.
Zubiri’s resolution needs 18 votes from senators. The review will be led by Angara who chairs the finance committee.
But where do his colleagues stand on Cha-Cha?
Senator Nancy Binay
In a statement on Tuesday, January 16, Senator Nancy Binay said that she is in favor of Cha-Cha but it should “strictly focus” on amending the Constitution’s economic provisions.
“Given the economic drive to establish a stronger platform for investments and national development, siguro (maybe), as a starting point, the Senate can task the sub-committee to provide a forum to a healthy and sensible debate on whether or not there’s a need to amend the Constitution,” Binay said.
Senator Koko Pimentel
In a text message to Rappler on Tuesday night, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel said he is in favor Cha-Cha through a constitutional convention (Con-Con).
“Given the recent developments, I now believe that calling for a constitutional convention would be the best way forward in revising the Constitution,” he said.
In the current proposal for Cha-Cha, proponents are calling for a constituent assembly (Con-Ass), where Congress will convene to change the institution, while if via a Con-Con, the delegates will either be appointed or elected by the people.
Senator Robin Padilla
Senator Robin Padilla welcomed Zubiri’s move to start discussion on amending the charter.
“This is good news for the nation. Our economy will be revitalized, and this will lead to progress in the lives of Filipinos,” Padilla said.
Padilla led the Cha-Cha push in 2023 but it fizzled out. (READ: In Cha-Cha push, can Padilla invite House lawmakers to Senate hearings?)
Senator Imee Marcos
The President’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, is not in favor of Cha-Cha. In her latest statement on Tuesday, she said that opening up the economy to the world has already been done even without Cha-Cha.
“Parang ang labo, at sa education naman, parang isu-surender ba natin kinabukasan ng ating anak sa dayuhan? Baka pag laki niyan ‘di na natin sila kilala kasi mga foreigner na sila, ‘wag naman 100%,” Marcos said.
(It’s not clear, and on opening up education, it’s like do we want to surrender the future of our children to foreigners? We might not know them anymore when they grow up because they’ll be foreigners, so let’s not open up education 100 percent.)
Meanwhile, the following senators released their statements before Zubiri filed the resolution on Monday. Rappler will update this story if they change their position.
Senator Joel Villanueva
In a statement on January 11, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that Cha-Cha advocates should not deceive the people that the country needs to amend the Constitution to “solve society’s problems.”
“Tigilan na po ang paglapastangan at pagmamanipula sa ating mga kababayan. Marunong silang mag-isip. Hindi nabibili ang kanilang opinyon. Hindi for sale ang Pilipino,” he said.
(Let’s not disrespect and manipulate our countrymen. They know how to think. Their opinions can’t be bought. Filipinos are not for sale.)
Senator JV Ejercito
Senator JV Ejercito on January 12 said that the Philippines has “too many problems to fix,” and these should be tackled first instead of undertaking Cha-Cha.
“Too many problems to fix, too many challenges that need attention, early political bickerings and charter change will surely affect goals that [have] been laid down,” Ejercito said.
“Personally, I would rather concentrate on surmounting these challenges,” he said.
Senator Win Gatchalian
In a statement on Tuesday, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian emphasized that the upper chamber will only look at the economic provisions of the charter and will “not talk about the political aspect.” He, however, said that this will not be approved before the President’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July.
“I think this will not be approved before the SONA as this will take time to discuss and debate. PI [People’s Initiative] should stop already,” he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros
Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros cautioned her colleagues that Cha-Cha is “treacherous, impractical, divisive, and unwise.”
“Why are we attempting to solve our economic problems by creating another problem?” she asked.
Hontiveros said that opening up 100% of the country’s public utilities and education services to foreigners “only expose us to security risks and weaken our national interests in a time of global unrest.”
We will update this story once more senators give their positions on Cha-Cha. – Rappler.com