MANILA,  October 12, 2004
By Pia Lee-Brago - Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal belied yesterday allegations that President Arroyo gave her blessing to his proposal to abolish Congress.

In the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel forum, Macalintal said his being the Presidentís lawyer in the election protest filed against her by losing presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. was merely incidental as he has nothing to do with her governance.

"I categorically deny that my proposal has the approval or imprimatur of President Arroyo. The President or any of her subalterns have absolutely no intervention in my proposal," he said.

The proposal, Macalintal said, was his "own personal idea" to save the government "at least P67.7 billion" in order to partly cover the widening budget deficit the country is facing.

Lawmakers have denounced Macalintalís three-year "Congress-less" government, describing it as unconstitutional and which will only lead to a dictatorship or martial law.

Under Macalintalís proposal, part of the Senate would exist until its merger with the lower chamber in a unicameral Congress to take effect in 2010.

"I never thought that this is the kind of treatment an ordinary citizen and taxpayer would get from our lawmakers when one suggests on how the government could save P67.7 billion in three years," Macalintal said.

He explained his proposal is premised on the condition that there would be an amendment of the Constitution before the regular 2007 national elections that will pave the way for a unicameral Congress in 2010. "In other words, there will be a merger of the Senate and the House of Representatives into one legislative body," he said.

Amid differing views from legislators, the President has time and again called for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

Mrs. Arroyo has vowed to attain a partnership between her administration and Congress in effecting reforms in the Charter enacted during the term of President Corazon Aquino.

The "executive-legislative partnership," the President said, will work closely as well in carrying out the 10-point pro-poor agenda she has set out to do in the next six years.

According to Macalintal, no election will be held in 2007 for 250 positions in the House and for the 12 senatorial seats whose term will expire in the same year.

In his proposal, the executive powers would still be exercised by the President and Vice President Noli de Castro while the legislative function would be performed by the 12 senators who won in the last polls. The 12 senators elected last May will be retained because they were elected for a term of six years until June 30, 2010.

Macalintal said the election in 2007 will only be for local posts such as governor, vice governor, board members, mayor, vice mayor and councilors.

From 2007 to 2010, the 12 remaining senators will review all existing laws for the purpose of voiding those that no longer seem applicable. Also, this is to prepare possible laws or resolutions for submission to the unicameral legislative body when it functions in 2010.

"Clearly, my proposal is not unconstitutional because it will be implemented upon the amendment of the present Constitution," Macalintal said.

Without the 250 members of the House and 12 senators, the government will have savings of at least P67.7 billion, he stressed.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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