Arroyo: Approved draft federal charter went through legislative mill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday said there was no pressure from the chamber's leadership to hasten passage of the proposed federal constitution.

Arroyo said there were plenary debates on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15 before it was passed on second reading on Tuesday through viva voce or voice voting.

"It's part of the democratic process. There was a debate, it was voted on," she said.

Related: House passes draft federal charter on 2nd reading

The Speaker said she only proposed a step in the process.

"You know that I did not participate in the debate because I have always said that my only contribution there is the mechanism for setting up the federal states," she said.

Arroyo said other lawmakers should answer for themselves regarding other provisions which they included in the draft charter, such as the removal of term limits for lawmakers.

Arroyo expects RBH 15 to be passed on third and final reading on December 10.

Her draft hogged headlines over a number of reasons, including the removal of term limits of lawmakers and the absence of an anti-political dynasty provision. It earlier removed the Vice President in the succession line during the transition to a federal government, but was later restored after much public criticism.

In response, Vice President Leni Robredo hit the House for focusing on politics instead of fixing the impact of the government's economic policies on the poor.

Meanwhile, senators said there is no more time to tackle charter change among them because of deliberations for the 2019 budget, which they target to pass before the year ends.

"Chances of the federal draft charter making it in the Senate at this point is very doubtful. They should have submitted it to us earlier so that we may have time to take up any other controversial measure," Senate President Tito Sotto said.

Senator Chiz Escudero added the proposal lacks support in the Senate, even as they do not see its necessity.

Federalism was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte. After he called on the swift passage of charter change in his State of the Nation Address, a resolution was filed in the House of Representatives that supported a separate vote from the Senate on matter under a proposed convening of a Constituent Assembly. Senators had opposed the move.

Some opposition senators even said charter change is "good as dead," as they said Arroyo might use it to remain in power, a claim the House Speaker denied.