2004 ELECTIONS UNAFFECTED BY CHA CHA - DE VENECIAManila, April 30, 2003 -- Senators and congressmen are working out a consensus on amending the 1987 Constitution through a Constituent Assembly even as charter change proponents agreed yesterday to push ahead with the 2004 elections and reject any proposal for term extension. "We agreed that definitely we will have elections in 2004, and we shut down any suggestion for term extension," Speaker Jose de Venecia said yesterday after a three-hour meeting of legislators supporting charter changes. The meeting, five weeks away from the sine die adjournment of Congress on June 5, was attended by four leading senators and three House leaders in a major breakthrough for proposed constitutional amendments through Congress sitting as a Constituent Assembly. De Venecia did not specify the number of senators supporting a Constituent Assembly but said the "magic number is about to be reached." Twelve senators are needed to approve a Senate resolution convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly. The House approved last March by an overwhelming majority a similar resolution. Attending the meeting were Senate minority leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Edgardo Angara of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel of PDP-Laban, Sen. Robert Barbers of the Lakas-CMD, De Venecia, Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez, Western Samar Rep. Antonio Eduardo Nachura, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, and Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano. Venecia said senators and congressmen who favor amending the charter were moving towards a unicameral parliamentary government with a committed 10-year transition period towards a federal system. De Venecia also said there is a consensus to have the amendments in place by the end of this year, paving the way for elections in 2004 to elect either a French-style or a Singapore-style president under a Constitution that will have "strong Philippine characteristics." While no final decision was reached on Constituent Assembly as the mode of charter amendments, Angara said more senators are seeing the assembly as a "more economical and less costly mode of constitutional amendments." De Venecia also said he talked with Senate President Franklin Drilon over lunch Monday in what he called a "conflict-resolution meeting" following Drilon's repeated public statements opposing the Constituent Assembly mode. De Venecia said Drilon is proposing a "conscience vote" in the Senate on whether the amendments should be through a Constitutional Convention or a Constituent Assembly.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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