Charter change creeping in the House

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    COMPARED to the issue of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation’s renewal of franchise, the various proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution which are pending in the House of Representatives are a lot more important to our lives and our future as a nation. Charter change, however, takes the backseat among priorities of the House of Representatives as the more contentious legislative franchise is given prominence.

    Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez is actively involved in both issues, but because he is chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, it is proper that we focus our discussion on constitutional concerns. Rodriguez’ latest pronouncement is that they will not rush the approval of the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

    Last week, the committee failed to put to a vote the Charter change amendments proposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Constitutional Reform, chaired by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año. It may be recalled that during the 7th regular meeting of the panel, the group formally adopted a motion recalling the Charter change resolution and Committee Report No. 1 they approved last year, to give due consideration to the IATF proposals.

    “It looks like we are trying to give each and every member and every ex-officio member (the opportunity) to comment because as we said, these are new proposals coming from the government itself, from the Executive. We have to study the proposal. After all, the DILG has gone to 62 provinces to be able to come out with these proposals which came from consultation,” Rodriguez said.

    While Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is in favor of “surgical amendments” according to Rodriguez, every member of the panel wanted to articulate his own position on many issues. “Everyone would like to have their own position and we cannot stop our members from expressing their views in each and every section amendments that the IATF has given. We don’t want to rush this because precisely haste makes waste,” he added.

    Members of the panel are scrutinizing the proposed amendments to the Constitution, including the provisions on political parties as a democratic institution, campaign finance, anti-political dynasty, and anti-turncoatism. Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel proposed to do away with two sections: Political Party and the Campaign Finance, saying these are restrictive and unrealistic.

    Under the proposal, the campaign finance both from public and private sources of political parties and candidates in all elections shall be regulated and that a democracy fund shall be set up to serve as a repository of all campaign funds and contributions. Pimentel believes that the Commission on Audit should not be given the authority to audit campaign funds, which are private funds. Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 1st district Rep. Prospero Pichay and Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo agreed with Pimentel.

    Pimentel also batted for the inclusion of the provision on anti-turncoatism and thus “stop the culture of political butterflies.” The solon noted that in the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, there were 135 members of Lakas-CMD, but when she ended her term as President, the number of Lakas dwindled to three. President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Liberal Party had 118 members when he was in power, and this decreased to 17 immediately after he bowed out.

    Knowing the congressmen and senators’ propensity to gravitate to whoever sits in Malacañang Palace, we doubt if this anti-turncoatism provision will even see the light of day. But let them do their job on Charter change, even as the clamor is for them to do their job on the ABS-CBN franchise.