Duterte to keep hands off Cha-Cha resolution – Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13)— President Rodrigo Duterte will not intervene in the affairs of the Congress, particularly the passage of the resolution amending the 1987 Constitution, Malacañang stressed Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines that the chief executive will leave it up to members of the Congress to review the controversial measure, which seeks to amend provisions on terms of lawmakers as well as election policies.

Sa ngayong siguro, pabayaan muna natin ang mga nasa loob ng Kongreso dahil sila ang mag-aaral niyan,” Panelo said when asked if the Palace was in favor of the proposed amendments.

[Translation: For now, let’s wait for the move of the Congress members because they will be the ones to review that.]

Depende 'yun (passage) sa mga miyembro ng Congress. Hindi naman nakikialam ang Presidente diyan,” he added.

[Translation: Its passage depends on the members of the Congress. The President will not interfere on that.]

The still-unnumbered resolution, which was approved by the House committee on constitutional amendments behind closed doors on Wednesday, proposes a five-year term for all members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as for local officials (except barangay or village officials). They can serve for up to three consecutive terms.

Under the Constitution, members of the lower chamber and local executives are both entitled to three-year terms. Senators, on the other hand, presently have six years in office.

The resolution also wants to increase the number of senators from 24 to 27 – three each from the following regions: National Capital Region, Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Other amendments proposed by the House resolution include a tandem voting for the President and Vice President in the elections, as well as a provision that would ease restrictions of foreign business ownership. The resolution also limits the ownership of mass media to Filipino citizens.

Approval next month?

Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez meanwhile said he wants plenary debates to start on the measure next week so the chamber can pass it by January. The lawmaker also insisted that there is no need for a constitutional assembly or constitutional convention.

The development, however, drew mixed reactions from lawmakers and netizens alike.

While some questioned the process of its discreet approval, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said the proposed amendment of increasing solons’ terms is considered “illegal.”

"Lalabas nito, this is Cha-Cha by legislation and hindi naman ito nakalagay, nakasaad sa ating kasalkukuyang Saligang Batas," said Zarate.

[Translation: It will turn out that this is Cha-Cha by legislation and this is not written in our current Constitution.]

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, executive director of the Inter-Agency Task Force Constitutional Reform, welcomed the House panel’s approval, and congratulated Rodriguez for “taking the bold step and for responding to the President's call for Constitutional reform.”

The President earlier this year admitted that passing federalism— one of his main campaign promises in the 2016 elections— would remain shot, as many Filipinos still do not support the proposed shift.

The lower chamber passed a federal charter on third and final reading in the 17th Congress, but no counterpart measure was filed in the Senate.

CNN Philippines' Vince Ferreras contributed to this report.