By:, Morexette Marie B. Erram, Rosalie Abatayo December 12,2018 - 10:48 PM

PATRIOTIC FISHERMAN: A fisherman on board his pumpboat painted in the colors of the Philippine flag is seen crossing the Mactan Channel on Dec. 12, 2018.

As the House of Representatives and the Senate head for a showdown over the House-approved charter change resolution, a key presidential ally from Cebu and advocate for federalism found it wanting, saying it was “taphaw (shallow).”

Secretary Adelino Sitoy, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) and former mayor of Cordova town in Cebu, said that Resolution of Both House (RBH) No. 15 approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, was ‘only superficial’ on fulfilling the government’s hopes for a federal government.

“At the very least, the House started the ball rolling (on the possible shift of a federalism shift), but it’s only superficial. Everything is only on the surface and context of federalism,” Sitoy told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview.

“There’s still a lot of work needed to be done if we’re talking about shifting to federalism,” he added.

According to Sitoy, the version for a charter change approved by the House was completely different from the one made by the 22-member Consultative Committee (ConCom) formed by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Practically, the old structure of the 1987 Constitution stays the same, and revise it to insert an article stating that the Congress has power to create a federal state. There’s a great difference between this and (the one) made by the ConCom,” Sitoy said.

He added that the House’s suggestion to adopt federalism did not expound on how this new type of government would be put it into place.

“ConCom specified that there will be 18 federal states, including the powers and distribution of income. What the House made was taphaw (shallow),” said Sitoy.

Sitoy also said that the only implication he could think of was that lawmakers from the Lower House just ‘tossed the problem’ to the Senate.

“They’re just tossing the problem. It’s only a ‘take it or leave it.’ They did not accept the suggestion made by the Concom (consultative committee),” Sitoy explained.

Former ConCom spokesman Ding Generoso, on the other hand, said RBH 15 “should go straight to the trash bin.”

“This is not a step forward. It’s many steps backward in reforming our political system and instituting real and meaningful system change,” he pointed out.

“ We condemn this (House Speaker Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo draft. I-diresto ito sa basurahan (This should go straight to the trash bin),” he added.

A militant group’s leader in Cebu also expressed concern over significant constitutional charges provided in the controversial federal charter or Resolution of Both House Number (RBH) 15, which was approved by the House of Representatives of Tuesday.

Among the proposed changes did not just allow for a presidential-bicameral-federal system of government but also the lifting of term limits, the absence of provisions against political dynasties and Congress being given the power to allow foreign ownership of land, educational institutions and media companies and the liberalization of public utilities, among others.

Anakbayan-Cebu chairperson Joisa Cesista said that they could not “trust much on the promises of the Senate” to reject RBH 15 because the senators allied with the administration, while expressing their objection to Charter change now, could be pressured by Malacañang to change their mind.

“Daghan na ang mga niaging administration nga nisuway pag-ilis sa batakang balaod. Ining higayona, dakong insulto sa 1987 constitution nga bunga sa pagsupak sa diktadorya nga ilisan og constitution nga ang mga provision batok sa political dynasty ug foreign ownership gitangtang na,” Cesista added.

(Many previous administrations have tried to replace our constitution. This time, it is an insult to the 1987 constitution, a product of revolution against dictatorship, to be replaced with a constitution that has no provision against political dynasty and foreign ownership.)

RBH 15 has a provision that allows the President and Vice President to be elected in tandem, both with a four-year term and one re-election.

It also allow members of the Congress to be elected to a four-year term, with no limits on re-election.

Under the draft charter, the first election is set for the second Monday of 2022.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the premier advocate of federalism in the country, is not eligible to run for reelection in 2022.

RBH 15 also seeks to establish the two-party system in the country, with the two dominant parties that garner the most number of votes in the 2022 national elections as the official parties.

The vote

Led by a supermajority dominated by administration allies, the House, in a session presided over by Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero, a total of 224 lawmakers voted on third and final reading in favor of the RBH 15, or five votes more than the required 219, or three-fourths of the total House membership of 292 required to amend the Charter.

Cebu third district Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, who was among the 224 lawmakers who voted for RBH 15, said she was being consistent with her commitment to support the shift to federalism.

“I am just being consistent. I have always supported charter change and the shift towards federalism,” Garcia said in a text reply to CDN.

Twenty-two congressmen, mostly belonging to opposition groups like the leftist Makabayan bloc, the so-called Magnificent 7 and several belonging to the recognized minority group led by the House Minority Leader, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, voted against it.

Senior Deputy Minority Leader Jose “Lito” Atienza, of the Buhay party-list group, said the adoption of the resolution was hasty: “Shifting to federalism is not the answer to our problems today or even for tomorrow.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman agreed, saying “alacrity could spell disaster.”

Lagman said passing RBH 15 was “an exercise in futility” because the voting process for constituent assembly, which would include the Senate, had not been resolved.

Opposition senatorial bet Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III also urged the Senate to maintain its independence.

“It is high time that we bring in an independent Senate that is free from any form of influence, follows their wisdom and their heart in fulfilling their promises, and more than anything, faithful to the mandate and obligations bestowed upon them when they got elected by the people,” Tañada said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tañada criticized the Congress, saying it would follow orders of the Duterte administration to approve charter change and the martial law extension in Mindanao.

“Congress danced the Chacha and worked on the extension of Martial Law as ordered by the administration,” he said.

Tañada noted that an independent Senate must stop the federal charter which would allow “Arroyo’s minions” in power.

“Let us not follow their dance and choreography. This is Gloria’s [and] her minions’ Chacha to keep them in power. As long as the Senate remains independent, let us continue to deny them the victory they aspire,” he said.

Unnecessary, lacking support

While most senators have yet to react on the passage of the RBH 15, senators from both the majority and the minority have earlier said they saw no future for the draft federal Constitution in the 17th Congress, which sits only until next July.

Despite the House of Representatives rushing the proposed federal charter, Senate President Vicente Sotto III reiterated on Wednesday that the Senate had no time for this.

“We have no time to take that up. They should have rushed the budget so that we could have taken that up,” Sotto said.

Sen. Francis Escudero also sees little chance for the draft federal charter to be approved “for lack of material time, necessity and support.”

“But I think this should not stop the House from approving whatever bills and resolutions it wants to pass and vice versa. Interchamber courtesy dictates that,” Escudero said.

The House could also come up with a draft charter that differs or deviates from the one submitted by Malacañang’s consultative committee, he said.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon bluntly described the House effort as a “waste of time.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who chairs the committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, said there was no way the Senate would rush any discussion of amendments to the Constitution.

“It is a very important discussion that must not be rushed or hastily completed,” Pangilinan said.

It would be better to leave deliberations on the matter to the 18th Congress, he said.

Pangilinan noted that only 3 percent of the population say that amending the Constitution is important.

“The prices of goods, higher salaries and jobs are what people are concerned about and not Cha-cha,” he said, using a shortcut for “charter change,” meaning amending the Constitution.

“If those in the administration cannot agree on what to change in the Constitution, why force it on the people?” he added.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of Cebudailynews. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

TAGS: change, charter, showdown

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.