Palace: Arroyo still for Charter change
But leaving initiative up to Congress
MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to “advocate” Charter change but is leaving it to lawmakers to decide how and when it should be done, a Malacañang official said Thursday.
Earlier this week, the House committee on constitutional amendments approved a resolution penned by Speaker Prospero Nograles seeking amend provisions in the Constitution restricting foreign ownership of land.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he is “open” to the amendments as long as these are limited to the economic provisions.
Arroyo’s critics have raised fears that Charter change, in the guise of amending the economic provisions, could be a ploy to extend her term beyond 2010.
“It’s enough for everybody to know that the President advocates Charter change as mentioned officially in her SONA [State of the Nation Address],” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said at his weekly news conference at the Palace on Thursday.
Ermita, who is also presidential spokesman, noted the “signal” from the House to the Senate to start efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution, but he said the executive branch would continue to keep its distance from the matter.
“We just have to await the outcome of actions in both houses [of Congress],” he said.
Meanwhile, presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio said Charter change is not on the agenda of merger talks between the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of the Free Filipino), as claimed by Kampi president Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte.
Arroyo has appointed Claudio head of the National Consolidation and Unification Committee (NCUC) tasked to hammer out the Lakas-Kampi merger for the 2010 elections.
“It [Charter change] is not on the agenda and definitely not the purpose of the NCUC. The merger of Lakas and Kampi is in preparation for the elections of 2010,” Claudio said in a statement.
However, Ermita said Charter change could be discussed during the merger negotiations.
“It is not surprising, therefore, that this issue [Charter change] might come up. Such as, what is our stand on Charter change? How will this be pushed? Those things must be discussed so that it wouldn’t hinder the merger talks,” he said.
Ermita also denied reports that Nograles could be ousted as Speaker for his alleged failure to push Charter change fast enough before Congress goes on recess in March.
He said Nograles remains a “close ally” of Arroyo.
“There is no truth to that report that there is an effort to oust him [Nograles]. There is no reason for him to be ousted,” Ermita said.
Ermita and Nograles both belong to Lakas, of which Arroyo is chairman. She is also the founder of Kampi.
View article as posted on INQUIRER.net