Recto: Charter change 'dead' in Senate

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Senator President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — Despite efforts from the House of Representatives to convene Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass), Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto believes efforts to amend the Constitution is "dead" in the Senate.

Recto made the statement Wednesday at the joint Senate committee hearing on the proposals for charter change.

"Clearly, we cannot do it in 10 session weeks, not to mention the possibility of the Senate being an impeachment court once again, not to mention we have to pass other laws as senators, as members of Congress," he said.

"Based on what I've heard today, cha-cha (charter change) is dead in the Senate," he added.

One of the invited resource speakers, political analyst Ramon Casiple, also said it would be "practically impossible" to discuss and propose amendments to the Constitution in about 60 days.

Recto noted the 1986 Constitutional Commission spent around six months to deliberate and create the existing Constitution, which was ratified in February 1987.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has said a plebiscite on the draft federal charter could be held in May this year.

In a separate interview, Senator Francis Pangilinan, however, said holding a plebiscite by May seems impossible.

"Hindi ito madalian. Hindi ito pupwedeng sapilitan at hindi maaaring maikling panahon ang gugugulin para mapag-usapan ang charter change," he said.

(Translation: We cannot rush nor force this. Discussing charter amendments cannot be accomplished within a short period of time.)

Pangilinan said there are several issues that need to be discussed by the joint Senate committees regarding the necessity of amending the 1987 Constitution and the mode by which the changes must be made.

Administration allies are pushing for charter change to pave the way for a federal form of government.

But since becoming a politician in 1992, Recto said he has not heard a clamor for a shift to federalism during his talks with local politicians.

"Ang lumalabas lagi when we talk about federalism, isn't that an additional bureaucracy? Additional red tape?" he said.

Recto said what local politicians have been calling for is the amendment of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, which was enacted in 1991. The law devolved powers to local governments but critics of it have said key features remain unimplemented.

For his part, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said based on the pending proposals, federalism will result into feudalism.

"The proliferation of political dynasties will increase in feudal states or regions," he said.

Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno also said a federal setup will not only give dynasties so much power, but worse, sovereign powers. "And that is a no, no," he said.

A federal government creates autonomous states that have greater power over the administration and resources of the territory they cover.