Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Marlon Ramos @MRamosINQ

One of the primary movers of Charter change (Cha-cha) in the Senate appeared to be having second thoughts about pursuing efforts to modify the 1987 Constituti­on after a survey revealed that an overwhelmi­ng majority of the public was against it.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday that the results of the recent Pulse Asia survey, which showed that 88 percent of Filipinos were against Cha-cha, would definitely affect the deliberati­ons of senators on the politicall­y charged issue.

He conceded that it would be difficult to reverse such an enormous public sentiment, which Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III attributed to the equally controvers­ial campaign to push for constituti­onal reforms through a people’s initiative.

“We also have to be practical with [survey] ratings like that,” Zubiri told reporters in an interview.

“When a survey says that almost nine out of 10 Filipinos don’t want Charter change, we have to listen to that. That’s important for senators. [Since] we were elected by the Filipino people, we must listen to the pulse of the Filipino people,” he stressed.

The Senate leader, along with Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda and Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, earlier filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, which proposed to ease up the Constituti­on’s restrictiv­e economic provisions.

The House of Representa­tives passed on March 20 its own version of the Cha-cha measure, RBH 7, a move that several senators saw as an attempt to preempt the Senate on how Congress should vote on the proposed amendments.

Zubiri pointed out that if both chambers of Congress would pass the planned charter amendments, the proposal must still be approved by voters through a national plebiscite.

“Will we be able to pass [Chacha] in a plebiscite? We’re spending a lot of money and time on a very controvers­ial measure, which may [later] become unsuccessf­ul,” he said, adding: “If the effort would fail to get a majority vote, then all our actions will be wasted. So I would suggest to continue to study this carefully. We should not rush it.”

He reiterated that Cha-cha should be limited to lifting the constituti­onal prohibitio­n on the foreign ownership of businesses in public utilities, education and advertisin­g.

According to Zubiri, introducin­g reforms in the political provisions of the 37-year-old charter would only further erode public support for amending it.

Despite the unfavorabl­e results of the Pulse Asia survey, the senators would still conduct regional hearings in the cities of Baguio, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro next month, the Senate leader said.

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