DRILON STAYS FIRM VS. CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY

MANILA, March 24, 2003 Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday lashed back at his critical
colleagues at the House of Representatives branding as absurd their
accusations that he is leading the chamber in defeating Charter change
because of his presidential ambitions.

"The public is basically cynical of traditional politicians with the
penchant to promote their own political interests once given the
opportunity to do so. There is an ethical question involved here: Why
should we put ourselves in a position of conflict of interests?" he said in
retaliation at statements given over the weekend by Representatives Rodolfo
Albano and Prospero Nograles.

The two earlier described as political hypocrisy the moves being taken by
Drilon to thumb down any efforts to tinker with the 1987 Constitution at
this time.

The Senate chief pointed out that congressmen and senators would find
themselves in a bind in case a proposal will be made to lift the term
limits of legislators because it would no longer be applicable under a
parliamentary form of government.

"I am not saying our Constitution, after 16 years, cannot stand
improvement. I am simply saying that our people are cynical of traditional
politicians because of the fear they will amend the Constitution to suit
their personal and political interests," he said.

"Thus, it is best that we leave the matter of amending the Constitution to
a Constitutional Convention so as not to put legislators in an awkward
position where conflict of interests will be manifest," the senator added.

Drilon also disputed claims by some congressmen that majority of the public
are in favor of amending the Constitution through a constituent assembly.

Proof of this, he said, was a letter sent him by Makati City Mayor Jejomar
Binay who told him that majority of the country's mayors, particularly in
Metro Manila, have thrown their support behind the stand of the Senate for
the establishment of a Constitutional Convention to effect changes in the
Charter.

"It is comforting to know that local executives, those who have their ears
close to the ground, support the more unifying and truthful mode of
changing the Charter rather than a constituent assembly which only seeks to
divide the attention and the resources of government," Drilon said.

He found an ally in the person of opposition Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. who
branded as childish and uncalled for tirades being thrown at them by
congressmen.

"There is no reason for the senators and congressmen to quarrel over
Charter change because both sides are in favor of instituting
constitutional reforms. They only differ in the mode of amending the
Charter," Pimentel said.

Unless senators and congressmen can hammer out a compromise or middle
ground on the mode of amending the Constitution, the chances for Cha-cha
will be bleak, he said noting that senators have not budged on their stand
favoring a Constitutional Convention even as their counterparts in the
House of Representatives have passed a concurrent resolution to convert
Congress into a constituent assembly. (Tribune)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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