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PIA Press Release

Pro-Arroyo solons give Palace simplified Charter change plan

Quezon City (28 November) -- PRO-ADMINISTRATION lawmakers have presented to Malacanang a simplified proposal to amend to the 1987 Constitution, which contains the shift from the presidential-bicameral to parliamentary-unicameral form of government, a top Palace official said.

In a caucus in Malacanang Monday night, they also agreed to a formal motion to push ahead with the plebiscite on Charter change before the deadline of the filing of the certificate of candidacy for senatorial candidates by Feb. 12, 2007, Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio said.

Monday's caucus, attended by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and more than 70 House members, was the second of a series of meetings among Charter change proponents to fast track the amendment of the Constitution.

Congress has about four more weeks of sessions before going on a Christmas break.

Arroyo, who checked out of St. Luke's Hospital early in the day after an executive check-up, had dinner with the congressmen, Claudio said.

During the meeting, Arroyo reiterated the need for Charter change as part of her administration's political reforms to enable the country to catch up with its neighbors and achieve first-world status, Claudio added. But he said the President was leaving the details up to the congressmen.

The simplified proposal was drawn up by the technical working group (TWG), created after the President gave the go-signal last week to the administration's “final push” on Charter-Change.

Headed by Cagayan de Oro Representative, the TWG had been tasked to come up with a simplified set of proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Claudio said he believed that reducing the amendments to the shift to parliamentary would make discussions less complicated in both the House and the Senate.

He also said it would be "ideal" to have a plebiscite first to determine the people's verdict on Charter change.

In the simplified version, the May 2007 elections will be cancelled to pave the way for the formation of an interim parliament in November 2007, according to Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay and Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte in a separate interview.

Pichay, who attended the caucus in the Palace, and Villafuerte are members of the TWG.

The adopted set of amendments will then be presented to Congress once it is convened to deliberate on the proposed amendments or revisions to the Constitution, they said.

The majority bloc in the House is expected to file next week a resolution calling for the convening of the members of the Senate and the House, they said.

The House leadership has expressed confidence that the resolution would be approved by a three-fourths vote of Congress before the congressional break on December 22.

Villafuerte and Pichay said they would immediately transmit the resolution to the Commission on Elections so that it could immediately set a date for a plebiscite probably in February 2007.

And in November 2007, Pichay said the elections of members of the interim parliament would be held.

"There will be three entries in the November elections -- by district, by region, and party-list groups," Pichay said.

He said there might be 32 seats for regional representatives, 212 for district representatives, and probably 55 members from the party-list groups.

The term of all incumbent senators and congressmen, whose term will expire on June 30 2007, will be extended until November 2007, Pichay said.

But senators, whose terms will expire in 2010, will become automatic members of the interim parliament until 2010, he said.

In 2010, Pichay said the elections of new members of the first regular parliament would be held.

"But we have yet to decide whether the elections should be held in May 2010 or November 2010 because there are proposals that we should serve a three-year full term as members of the parliament," he said.

Those who will be elected in 2010 will serve a five-year term or until 2015.

While he wanted only a four-year term for members of the parliament, Pichay said he gave in to his colleagues since two of his proposals --elections in November, 2007 and retention of the party-list system -- had been adopted by the group.

"I am happy that they adopted my proposals. I was proven right. It's just a matter of selling it out to the senators," Pichay said.

Pichay said some of his colleagues had wanted to extend their terms until 2008 but he argued that a six-month extension was justified and easier to defend.

In one of their meetings also, Pichay disclosed that a proposal to allow the President to nominate a prime minister had also cropped up.

"Speaker Jose de Venecia said it was in the draft of the people's initiative petition. But he did not insist when we told him that it would not be a popular proposal," Pichay said.

"We told him [De Venecia] that we should elect a prime minister from among ourselves," Pichay said. (PIA) [top]

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