Senate told: Think of country, say yes to Charter change

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    THINK of the good of the country and agree to proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said yesterday as he chided senators for sweeping Charter change moves at the House of Representatives under the rug.

    “I hope that senators, instead of just saying that it is doomed, (that) it’s not a priority, should go into each and every proposal. Are they good for the country or not? That is the main issue there,” Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, told reporters.

    He added: “That is what I am going to appeal to our senators. Keep an open mind, accept our proposals once the plenary and constitutional assembly is constituted.”

    Rodriguez’s panel last week approved in executive session a resolution proposing to lift economic restrictions in the Constitution and fix the terms of senators and congressmen and local government officials to five years subject to three re-elections, or a total of 15 years.

    The resolution likewise seeks to increase the number of senators from 12 to 27 or three per region, and provides that the president and vice president shall be elected in tandem.

    Under the 1987 Constitution, congressmen and local officials have three-year terms limited to three terms or nine years, while a senator has a six-year term and can be elected to two consecutive terms, or 12 years.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III reiterated Charter change is not a priority in the Senate, adding it will just be a waste of the senators’ time.

    He said that while senators might consider amending the economic provisions, the proposal to fix or extend the terms of lawmakers is unlikely to get any support at the Senate.

    “Kung economic provisions lang ang tatargetin nila, may pag-asang mapag-usapan sa amin ‘yun. Pero kung pinag-usapan mo kaagad ‘yung term limits, with due respect to them, baka naman mag-aksaya tayo ng panahon kasi sa plebisito iboboto ng tao ng ‘No’ ‘yan (If they are targeting the economic provisions, we might discuss that. But if they insist on term limits, with due respect to them, that will be a waste of time because voters will surely vote ‘No’ against that when the amendments are subjected to a plebiscite),’’ Sotto said over radio dzBB.

    Sotto said the public will see through the “self-serving” move and will not agree to it.

    “Garantisado, magpa-survey ka. Tingnan mo, tanong mo sa taumbayan kung sino may gusto na baguhin ang term limits ng mga senador, congressmen. Self-serving eh. Kung pag-uusapan ‘yung mga term limits, form of government, mas maganda ‘yung constitutional convention para hindi self-serving sa amin (It’s guaranteed. Conduct a survey, ask the public who among them would like to change term limits for senators and congressmen. That’s self-serving. If you talk about term limits, form of government, the best mode will be through a constitutional convention so it will not be self-serving for us),” he added.

    Rodriguez defended the House proposal, explaining it will not be self-serving “because it can never apply to us, it can never apply to incumbent officials and we will have elections 2022.”

    “We are not extending our terms. We are adding years,” Rodriguez said.

    Besides, he added, “the clamor of the region is many are shut off – there is no representation from the region.”

    Sotto said has many pending legislations which they need to act on, among the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act. – With Ashzel Hachero