SENATE leaders thumbed down renewed efforts to railroad proposed Charter changes, embodied in Resolution of Both Houses (RBH 15) approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading before adjourning on December 13.
Both pro-administration and opposition senators indicated it is “a waste of time” for the upper chamber to tackle proposals to tinker with the 1987 Freedom Constitution when Congress resumes regular sessions on January 14.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III voiced doubts that senators can still “have time” to tackle controversial Charter changes before the year-end adjournment given the full focus on passing the 2019 budget to avoid an extended period under which the country would be working under a reenacted one.
The Senate President, however, confirmed that the House-approved Charter change bill or RBH 15 has been referred to the appropriate committee for review. The Senate’s Committee on Constitutional Amendments, chaired by opposition senator Kiko Pangilinan, had earlier held hearings on Charter change and the shift to federalism, but reported mostly negative sentiment on the matter from those it invited as resource persons.
“But, I doubt we will have time,” Sotto said, noting that the House-endorsed Charter change bill will be “effective only until June 30,” referring to the current Congress calendar which fixed the date for adjournment of the Senate and House sessions.
The Senate President indicated that the Charter change issue will still be taken up along with other pending bills.
“Is that [Charter change] all that we will take up?” Sotto wondered aloud, even as he indicated the Charter change bill will still be in their agenda, albeit much later. “We can tackle it in July when we resume sessions.”
He added that if the Charter change proponents intended to amend the Constitution to lift existing term limits, “they should have done it earlier.”
“If they did not delay the budget bill submission, baka sakali [it may have been possible],” Sotto said, noting that he has yet to hear President Duterte endorsing the Charter-change scheme, as the latter was only gung-ho about it in the 2016 campaign and in his first year in office.