Palace: Cha-cha A Possibility

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Aquino administration is open to amending the 1987 Constitution as it seeks peace with Moro secessionists but Charter change (Cha-cha) is not the government's priority, Malacanang said.

"Charter change is not a priority for the President at this point, there are many other things he has to resolve first, more pressing problems," said Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning (PCDSP), at a press briefing in Malacañang Tuesday.
Marvic Leonen, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law and the head of the government team that will negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the administration is not closing its door on amending the Constitution to achieve lasting peace with the Moro secessionists.

The government nearly signed a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF in 2008. However, the signing was stopped when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

"I know there's talk of of Charter change in relation to peace talks with the MILF but at this point we have not even begun the discussions with the MILF and any talk about Charter change is very speculative at this point. We don't even know where it's going to go. Will we reach an agreement that will require an amendment? We don't know," said Carandang.

Carandang, however, maintained that the government is open to amending the Charter at the right time and under the right circumstances.

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III promised during his campaign that he will form a Charter change commission to determine if there is a need to amend the 1987 Constitution, and if so, how it should be amended.

The Aquino administration is set to resume peace negotiations with the MILF after the Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting which began on August 11 and will end on September 9.

Lawmakers welcome Aquino's stance.
Meanwhile, several lawmakers welcomed Aquino's openness to amend the 1987 Constitution to reach a peace settlement with the Moro rebels. In a text message to GMANews.TV, Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo said Charter change is essential not just for the peace process but for economic and political reform. “It’s time to reassess our timid stance on the Charter change. We need it badly. We need it now," he said. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said Charter change “is a logical outcome of the peace process whether with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) or National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)." Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara lauded the President for knowing that a good negotiator does not close any doors at the start of a negotiation. “To end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, there must be some creative solutions on the part of both sides so the country and the Mindanaoans can unlock the vast potentials of Mindanao in terms of supplying food and jobs," he said in a separate text message to GMANews.TV. Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles said Charter change is the correct legal position if the MILF insists on their claim of ancestral domain or if they demand for more autonomy. However, the President must make a judgment call, he said. “Is this the only way to broker for peace in Mindanao. And if we agree to this, will we be guaranteed that no other splinter group will break away from the MILF and start another war?" he said. He said the administration has to be very clear on all points and conditions for peace, and “this has to be very transparent to the people so we will not risk any confusion or misunderstandings that might aggravate the situation."

Evardone's warning Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, for his part, warned that the administration could probably not avoid discussing other issues once the “floodgates are open." “How can you prevent the delegates from discussing other issues?" he asked reporters. "Kung Cha-cha dapat ngayon na hindi sa latter part ng term ni President Noy. Mahihirapan na naman, sasabihin na it will be designed to prolong, extend the term of the incumbent," he said. In the House of Representatives, former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her ally, Cavite Rep. Elipio Barzaga are both pushing for a Constitutional Convention to amend the Charter.

Arroyo welcomes Aquino's stand on Cha-cha.

The Arroyo camp sees Aquino's openness to charter change as significant in promoting peace and development in Mindanao and opening up economic opportunities for the entire country.

"These are the reasons why one of her first bills is on Chacha and autonomy in specific areas of Mindanao. Dr. Arroyo is seeking for more long term peace and development of the country that only a constitutional change can bring," Elena Bautista-Horn said in a text message.

Meanwhile, Arroyo's son, Ang Galing Pinoy Rep Juan Miguel Arroyo believed that Aquino's stance is a vindication of sorts for the past administration. He says more people seem to be open to Cha-cha now, unlike before when any move for charter change was met with opposition. "It is only now that everyone is seeing the wisdom behind the cha-cha and I believe it is a most welcome development for the country. with the popularity President Aquino enjoys, I hope he could muster all the support needed to finally push for cha-cha as what the past administration had been pushing all along, with the country’s progress and development foremost on the agenda," he said.

Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, on the other hand, said Cha-cha may be necessary for a peace settlement with the MILF but it is still premature to talk about amendments at this point.
"The government has to know first what the MILF wants. Certainly a separate homeland is not possible. The Aquino government requires enough political will and innovation to pursue talks with the MILF. The level of trust in his government is high. PNoy should capitalize on it," he said in a text message to GMANews.TV.

Meanwhile, Aquino's ally in the House, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon believed that the statement of government negotiator Leonen about the administration being open to Cha-cha, was "unwise."

“The statement of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel assigned to the negotiation with the MILF that the government is open to charter change is unwise especially with when the MILF took a saber-rattling posture that say they are ready for war," Biazon said at a press conference. 
with Amita Legaspi/VVP/RSJ, GMANews.TV



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