No time for Charter change, unless there’s ‘no-el’: Alvarez

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday reiterated that Congress simply does not have enough time to tackle the proposed federal charter unless the May 2019 midterm elections would be postponed.

In a radio interview, Alvarez said postponing the 2019 polls is the best option to give lawmakers ample time to work on the proposed Constitution.

He said Congress must decide on the no-election issue before the filing of certificate of candidacy in October.

He stressed that unless Charter change for a federal system is done by 2019, it would be very difficult to achieve this goal.

“If we delay it further, we would not be able to do it until the end of the term of President (Rodrigo) Duterte,” he said.

The Speaker noted that Duterte would have a little over two years remaining in his term after the 2019 elections, adding that the said time frame is not enough to approve a new charter and allow a proper transition period to the new federal government.

He said Congress has a tight schedule with the deliberations on the proposed 2019 budget, the filing of certificates of candidacy in October, the campaign period in February next year, and the schedule interruptions of congressional operations including Halloween and Christmas breaks.

“We need to focus on this. So for example, if we decide to cancel the elections in 2019, we would tackle first the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and then after that we would immediately discuss that (charter change). We would not do any other thing except to discuss that (proposed federal charter),” he said.

Alvarez said Congress would need six to eight months to complete the debate and deliberations on the proposed federal Charter and another six months to conduct an information drive before the draft federal Constitution can be presented to the people for ratification.

Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers rallied public support for the Duterte administration and urged critics to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution instead of attacking the administration’s efforts to change the course of the country.

“We know very well that the 1987 Constitution is flawed; every flawed system should be reformed,” Barbers said.

“Matagal nang dapat nabago ang Saligang Batas, ngunit maraming tutol sapagkat sarili lang nila ang kanilang iniisip,” Barbers added.

Barbers also said it is possible that majority of Filipinos oppose charter change simply because they do not understand how charter change could bring forth positive outcomes.

The lawmaker suggested to the House Leadership that the legislative calendar be changed for the Third Regular Session to fast track and tackle the 2019 national budget, Charter Change and other important legislations.

“I propose to have Monday to Saturday sessions, three weeks in a month, straight, with one-week break to allow the representatives to go home to their respective districts. Wala munang aalis ng bansa until December this year until we finish all these legislations,” Barbers said. PNA