Cha-cha is Congress’ business - Palace

November 21, 2008









Malacañang yesterday made no bones about wanting Charter change (Cha-cha), but claimed that President Arroyo is against a term extension.

At the same time, the Palace claimed these changes belong in the realm of Congress, saying that the process of achieving the needed reforms is within the mandate and competence of Congress.

In a text message, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza before leaving for Peru with President Arroyo for the Asia Pacific Economic Countries (Apec) meeting said: “We leave this issue to the legislative department to handle.”

The Palace has not issued a statement denying or confirming that presidential son and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo led the signature campaign to pass a resolution that will convene Congress into a Constituent assembly (Con-ass).

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Cha-cha efforts come from different sectors, whether from other branches of government such as Congress or other groups or individuals or local executives, saying that “these are independent efforts.”

“As far as the President is concerned, she is not having any hand in the efforts of other groups because the executive branch does not intend to be in the position of influencing the other branches of the government particular to the Constitution reforms,” Ermita said. He added nothing about the fact that the First Couple were at the home of a Leyte congressman when Cha-cha was launched.

Ermita stressed that “the President has said on many occasions that she is stepping down by the end of her term in 2010. She has not given any position on efforts for Cha-cha and this is hardly being discussed by everybody, not even by people close to her. I am close enough to the President for her to share her thoughts,

but she has not shared anything on Cha-cha,” Ermita explained.

Presidential son Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo yesterday denied a plan to extend the term of his mother following a Tribune story that more than 80 lawmakers had met at the Forbes Park residence of Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez who sought pledges fro the congressmen.

Congressman Arroyo, however, admitted that he has been urging his colleagues in the House to support Cha-cha moves only to amend some economic provisions, which would be good for the country. He said that change in the form of government must be done after 2010.

“There really is a resolution, —yes, calling on Congress to convene into a Constituent assembly. I’m one of the signatories. It’s principally authored by Congressman Villafuerte… it is the same reso (lution) last term which was espoused by Speaker JdV (Jose de Venecia). We have been for Cha-cha all along,” Mikey said.

He explained that the resolution was about convening Congress into a Con-ass after 2010.

“As far as I’m concerned political change, if ever, must be done after 2010 but we might be able to implement some economic provisions now,” Arroyo said, pointing to a resolution filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Arroyo said that he had made the rounds in Congress to urge lawmakers to support Charter change.

“I cannot deny the fact that I asked some of my friends because that’s how we are in Congress. We look at ourselves as a scholarly body.”

“For example I asked Raul Gonzales Jr because I know, in fact, he is an advocate of Charter change,” Arroyo said.

He also allayed apprehensions about Cha-cha, saying: “Let me remind the public that this has been going on for a long time—the proposal to only convene ourselves into a Constituent assembly. Whatever decision it is will depend on the people through a referendum,” he said.

He said the administration will try to bring the issue as a test case before the Supreme Court even as he said that “students of politics and history will benefit from this because the Supreme Court will have to rule on this issue.”

He called on critics, the presidentiables and the opposition not to “shoot down” the legislation because it is going to be good for the country.

Nograles, for his part, said that “there is no existing resolution that seeks to extend anybody’s term including the President and congressmen and senators. None whatsoever.”

Only 15 signatures more are needed for the Con-ass to move, which is the resolution authored by Kampi presidentLuis Villafuerte.

Ermita defended President Arroyo by stating, “we just have to believe in the spoken word and statement of the President. Others suspect that the President has another agenda and they kept pushing that subject matter so they will get reaction from Malacañang on what really the President intends to do during her remaining term in the office. But we will keep on reiterating that the implementation of the projects and programs of her administration will be done by the time she steps down in 2010.”

He added the usual spiel of Mrs. Arroyo being so focused on facilitating the implementation of her projects. “What is important to her are the social benefits these projects will bring to the people and the President does not engage in discussing the current politics because this might divert her attention,” Ermita said.

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