Quezon City, Feb. 18, 2003 -- In Congress, it is all systems go for Charter change, as lawmakers yesterday began plenary deliberations on House Concurrent Resolution 16 seeking to convene Congress into a constituent assembly.

In his sponsorship speech, Western Samar Rep. Eduardo Nachura, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, has provided impetus to the belief that moving to amend the Constitution would liberate the country from poor economic condition. "We must act quickly and seize the day; delaying the proposed amendments will only exacerbate our already fragile national condition and bring more hardships to our people. The most immediate response can be provided by Congress sitting as a constituent assembly," Nachura told congressmen in his speech.

Last month, 126 out of the total 219 congressmen voted in favor of the resolution seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Out of this total, 121 lawmakers expressed their support that Congress, sitting as a constituent assembly, undertake the work for amendments on the Charter, particularly on the form of government.

Speaker Jose de Venecia, for his part, said the lawmaker who attended the caucus agreed to limit the debates on three areas and these include the provisions on the shift to parliamentary form of government, the increased foreign ownership of corporations, and provisions for the transitory government.

He added those in attendance vowed to block any amendments that will cancel the 2004 presidential elections, or will seek the extension of the terms of office of lawmakers.

"The 2004 elections will push through as scheduled. The no-election scenario was shut down," he said.

The House leader said they decided to push through with Charter change despite the Senate's opposition and the surveys indicating the public is not in favor of amending the Constitution since there is a "groundswell of support from all sectors of society calling for Charter change." (Dona A. Policar, Tribune)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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