Zubiri wants House, Senate leaders to meet regarding cha-cha

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7) — Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri wants Congress leaders to meet ahead of any move for Senate to convene for charter change.

"Before we can accept the [House] resolution and pass our own, we have to agree on certain points [about] what we want to amend," Zubiri told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"My colleagues will never agree to just a blanket authority," he added.

This comes as the lower chamber filed another resolution allowing the two houses of Congress to vote separately in a constituent assembly.

But whether many senators are wary of charter change — especially with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sitting as House Speaker. Her critics believe she is after more power, although she dismissed this as "black propaganda."

Zubiri clarified that he has no quarrel with Arroyo, who is his godmother. However, he cannot say the same for his colleagues.

"There's some misgivings of some of my colleagues because they have a past with the former President," the senator said.

Senator Ping Lacson previously said that charter change was "as good as dead" in the Senate. He and other colleagues have various beefs with Arroyo, recalling alleged corruption, rumored electoral fraud, and how she jailed critics during her term.

Zubiri wants Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao as federal states

While Zubiri says he is open to shifting to federalism, he is not sold in the model forwarded by the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution.

RELATED: ConCom's final draft Federal Constitution

One of the topics the senator wants to discuss is the sustainability of the18 proposed federal states.

"With all due respect to (ConCom Chair) Justice (Reynato) Puno, I think 18 federal states will not fly. There are federal states that will not survive. They're not going to be economically viable," said Zubiri.

"I was hoping it will be more like Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and Bangsamoro," he added.

Zubiri argued that some provinces with low income could not earn back the Internal Revenue Allotment they receive under the current unitary government. However, he believes teaming up with neighboring provinces will allow them to pool their resources together.

The federalism model proposed in the ConCom draft could still face changes when it hurdles through Congress.