Speaker Cayetano

MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano raised Monday the issue of timing in introducing amendments to the 1987 Constitution as the country grapples with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Cayetano made the remark after House Constitutional Amendments Committee chair Rufus Rodriguez announced that his panel will convene after President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) to discuss Charter change (Cha-cha) proposals of over 1,400 mayors across the country.

“Walang kaduda-duda na kailangan ng Charter change. Ang question lang sa ating lahat ay timing (There is no doubt that Charter change is needed. The only question is about the timing),” Cayetano said in a press conference.

Cayetano said he does not see the possibility of holding a plebiscite to approve the proposed constitutional changes especially amid the threat of Covid-19.

“I think people should discuss it, but they should not worry that it will be rammed down their throat. We only want Constitutional change if the people want it, and want it very badly,” he said.

He said Congress will take a “dual track” by trying to amend the Constitution and also passing legislation that can partially address problems that constitutional reforms can resolve.

He particularly noted that the House Committee on Local Government, Committee on Appropriations, and the Committee on Ways and Means are already working on the amendments on the Local Government Code.

“Ibig sabihin, kung hindi magawa ang federalism, pwedeng unahin muna ang economic federalism and more autonomy for LGUs [local government units]. So we can approach it na parallel (That means, if federalism cannot be done, then we can first focus on economic federalism and more autonomy for LGUs. So we can approach it in a parallel [manner],” he said.

Earlier in the day, Rodriguez said his panel could convene a meeting within the first two weeks after President Duterte’s SONA on July 27.

“I will call a virtual meeting of our committee possibly within the first two weeks of our session to tackle the proposals of our 1,489 town mayors and other pending measures,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he would get the sense of the panel members and House leaders on discussing Cha-cha amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

On Friday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government announced that the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, which groups town mayors, is pushing for two constitutional reforms.

The proposed amendments include the institutionalization of the so-called Mandanas ruling of the Supreme Court on internal revenue allotments (IRA) of local government units and the lifting of restrictions on foreign investment in businesses currently limited to Filipinos. (PNA)