CONGRESS APPROVES CHA-CHA

Quezon City, March 21, 2003 -- The House Wednesday midnight approved (134-13) House Concurrent Resolution No. 16 calling for a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Speaker Jose de Venecia said the campaign for charter changes "now shifts to the Senate" where he said there are "signs of a breakthrough" for concurrence to lay the basis for a constituent assembly.

De Venecia said the House approval endorses a shift to a unicameral parliamentary government with a fixed ten -year transition period to a federal system.

"We want to put an end to paralysis and gridlock and the constant divisions in the Philippine political system that have prevented us from catching up with the economic tigers of Southeast Asia and created cycles of boom and bust for the country," de Venecia said.

The House leader further said the shift to a unicameral parliamentary government will reduce corruption because elections would be less expensive while not depriving the people of the right to directly choose the president.

He said the unicameral parliamentary system, overwhelmingly in use in Europe, will eliminate the practice of party-switching in the present system that puts premium on personalities and not on party platform.

Rep. Antonio Eduardo Nachura, principal sponsor and chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, expressed confidence that majority of the senators would endorse the constituent assembly.

Senators Edgardo Angara and Robert Barbers filed last January a similar resolution.

If the concurrent resolution is adopted, both houses of Congress would work three days a week for three to four months to draft the amendments without sacrificing its main task of lawmaking, said Biliran Rep. Gerry Espina and deputy minority leader Constantino Jaraula, co-authors of the resolution.

De Venecia said the House has kept its word to approve the Concurrent Resolution without interfering with the chamber's task. In recent days, the House approved on third and final reading two revenue measures - the automotive tax and tax amnesty - and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act aimed at clearing the courts of close to one million pending cases.

The House justice committee also approved the committee report on the controversial anti-terrorism bill which will be reported out for plenary action next month when the House returns from the Holy Week recess.

De Venecia said that of the 13 who voted against the resolution, nine were not against Charter amendments but did not favor a Constituent Assembly as the mode of change.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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