Cha-cha talks figure at tail end of several presidencies as officials seek ‘survival’ — ex-VP Binay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 11)— Former Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday said the revival of talks for constitutional amendments has also happened at the tail end of other presidential terms, as he questioned why some incumbent officials seem to seek political survival and stay longer in power.

Bakit ba ganun? Tuwing malapit nang matapos ang incumbency ng present President eh lagi nang napapasok 'yung charter change?” Binay said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“Para bang something is being preserved… for purposes of surviving in their positions," he added. "I suppose gusto nilang magtagal pa sa position, simple.”

[Translation: Why is that every time the incumbency of a present president is almost over, charter change is being brought up? It’s like something is being preserved… for purposes of surviving in their positions. I suppose they want to hold on to their position, simple.]

Efforts to tackle constitutional amendments in both chambers of Congress resurfaced last week.

At the House, the Committee on Constitutional Amendments will tackle proposed changes to the charter on Jan. 13, particularly the resolution filed by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco in July 2019. This seeks to ease the constitutional limits on foreign ownership of lands, educational institutions, public utilities, and mass media firms.

At the Senate, Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa earlier filed a resolution seeking to convene Congress as a constituent assembly to introduce amendments to the Constitution. Talks will be “limited to the provisions on democratic representation and the economic provisions of the Constitution,” according to the resolution.

Binay clarified he would be fine with debates on the economic provisions — as long as these would be the focus.

Kailangan dapat amyendahan, hindi na kailangang pang dagdagan," he said. "Hanggang doon na lang tayo sa economic provision kasi it’s getting to be suspicious eh, tuwing natatapos 'yung term ng presidente eh pinapasok lagi 'yung constitutional amendment.”

[Translation: That should be amended, but should there shouldn’t be any additions. We should only stay within the economic provisions, because it’s getting to be suspicious, every time a term of the president nears its end, the constitutional amendment is always brought up.]

Asked about term extensions, Binay said he agrees with increasing the term of local officials to four years.

In May 2020, the lower chamber's Committee on Constitutional Amendments said it is suspending deliberations on any proposal to amend the Charter amid the COVID-19 pandemic — which continues to take a toll on the lives of Filipinos and citizens around the globe.

Political amendments ‘off-limits’

A House member assured that chamber discussions will only focus on economic provisions, adding that the political provisions will not be touched.

“Any move to amend the political provisions will be ‘dead on arrival’,” House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Joey Salceda said in a statement.

Kapag nilagyan ito ng politics (if politics meddles in this), goodbye.”