MANILA, JANUARY 7, 2010 (STAR) President Arroyo would leave it to Congress to decide on proposals to amend the Constitution, Malacañang said yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said Mrs. Arroyo has no urgent interest in moves at the House of Representatives to call a constitutional convention in October.

If Congress approves the measure, Mrs. Arroyo would no longer be in power since her term ends on June 30, he added.

Olivar said Charter change is not among the priorities of Mrs. Arroyo in her last few months in office.

“The President has not indicated any urgent interest in this,” he said.

“If there’s anything that the President has indicated urgent interest in, it is the passage of certain measures that were certified and endorsed earlier as urgent and a lot of them have to do with revenue enhancement.”

Olivar said Malacañang would not interfere in the work of Congress, particularly in calling for a constitutional convention.

“Our position is we basically leave it up to Congress at this point to proceed on this issue as best as they see fit in their collective wisdom as legislators,” he said.

However, Olivar did not dismiss the possibility Mrs. Arroyo would join her allies in the House in pushing for Charter change after she is elected a member of Congress.

“The President has her own plans to run and if she wins, after she steps down, so she may be a part of this process,” he said.

GMA confident of victory

Olivar said Mrs. Arroyo is confident of winning a seat in Congress and she would give priority to governance while campaigning for the May 10 elections.

“She repeatedly promised that she will not let the campaign get in the way of her continuing duties as President up to the very last day,” he said.

“She will continue her job through and beyond the start of the campaign period. Governance is her priority.”

Olivar said Mrs. Arroyo is running for Congress because of the clamor of her constituents in the sixth district of Pampanga.

“For those living in her district, the possibility of a former president representing you in Congress is certainly not an unattractive prospect,” he said.

Erap not worried with GMA win

Former President Joseph Estrada is not worried if President Arroyo is elected to Congress and becomes speaker of the House of Representatives in case he becomes president again.

Speaking in Filipino, Estrada said he would work with Mrs. Arroyo if he is elected president and she becomes speaker.

“I’m willing to help her if she will do what is right,” he said.

Estrada also downplayed possibilities of his being impeached again as president if Mrs. Arroyo becomes speaker.

“Hindi na mangyayari uli iyon (It won’t happen again),” he said. “Natuto na ko (I have learned my lesson).”

Estrada is optimistic that he would return to Malacañang after the May 10 elections, saying that the people’s support for him has not changed.

Estrada was in Bulacan yesterday for another “Lakbay Pasasalamat,” from Hagonoy to Malolos and other towns, together with some Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial candidates.

Estrada’s motorcade started in Hagonoy at around 9 a.m., where he was joined by former mayor Hermogenes Perez.

It briefly stopped at the Hagonoy public market, where they were greeted by hundreds of residents.

Estrada’s motorcade later proceeded to Paombong, then to Malolos, where he was joined by Jun Aniag, PMP congressional candidate for the lone district of Malolos.

After a tour of the Basilica Minore at the heart of the city, Estrada’s motorcade proceeded to Northville VIII in Barangay Bangkal, where thousands of former settlers along the abandoned Philippine National Railways tracks were relocated.

At Northville VIII, Estrada’s group was mobbed by residents who responded with applause to speeches of members of his team, including Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, Jun Lozada, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, former senator Francisco Tatad, former lawmaker JV Bautista, Joey de Venecia III, and former ambassador Ernesto Maceda.

In Pampanga, a lawmaker said the push for a constitutional convention is devoid of any plans for Mrs. Arroyo to be elected speaker of the House of Representatives.

Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin said the possibility of Mrs. Arroyo becoming speaker in the 15th Congress is unlikely, especially if the next president would come from the opposition. – Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Dino Balabo, Ding Cervantes

'Congressmen devoting last session days to Charter change' By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated January 07, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen are making a last-ditch effort to revive Charter change initiatives at the House of Representatives with only nine session days left in the 14th Congress, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Francis Pangilinan revealed yesterday.

Estrada said the House leadership is pushing for the approval of a Charter change bill before the 14th Congress adjourns.

Estrada noted reports that Speaker Prospero Nograles and administration lawmakers would be making the final bid for Cha-cha during Congress’ remaining three weeks of session from Jan. 18 to Feb. 5.

Nograles was quoted as saying the Charter change bill was included in the 16 priority measures that would be tackled in floor deliberations before Congress finally adjourns for the campaign that would begin on Feb. 9.

House Bill 6975 that proposed the setting up of a constituent assembly to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution is up for second reading at the House.

Estrada said this would be a futile effort on the part of administration lawmakers, which would even further deepen the current political tensions in the country.

“I am appealing anew to my fellow legislators especially at the House to finally drop all efforts to amend the country’s Charter, because any Cha-cha move at this time and particularly within the last session days of this 14th Congress would be divisive and a waste of time and of taxpayers’ money,” Estrada said.

Pangilinan also stressed the last nine days of session before the campaign period should not be used for Charter change moves but to focus on pending priority measures.

“What we should focus on are measures that could help our countrymen recover from the effects of the recent calamities, tragic accidents, the global financial crisis and especially the slump in our country’s economy and finances,” he said.

“Our people have spoken. They have already declared their rejection of Cha-cha. We must heed their voice,” the senator added.

Estrada expressed confidence that such last-ditch efforts to propose amendments to the Charter would not prosper, particularly at a time when every lawmaker is already busy preparing for the campaign.

Pangilinan also said members of the House are only wasting their time in pushing for a bill to convene a constitutional convention by October.

“The Senate will not agree to Charter change initiated by the Arroyo administration. They won’t find any Malacañang lapdogs in the Senate willing to jump and bark just to please the masters by the Pasig River,” Pangilinan said.

Former President Joseph Estrada joined his son Jinggoy in pointing out the lack of time for Congress to pass Charter change initiatives.

Through his spokesperson Margaux Salcedo, the former president said the effort to amend the Charter was simply to perpetrate President Arroyo in power.

“The insistence of the proponents of Charter change reveals their desperation to perpetuate the administration in power forever,” Salcedo said.

No longer interested

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said President Arroyo has no urgent interest in moves of allies to call a constitutional convention in October.

Olivar said if Congress approves the measure, Mrs. Arroyo would no longer be in power since her term ends on June 30.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita maintained the President has never discussed the issue of Charter change with anyone in her Cabinet.

Ermita said the President made no mention in the same way that she did not talk about her political plans before she filed her certificate of candidacy to run for Congress in the May elections.

Ermita also reacted to the statement attributed to Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II who claimed Mrs. Arroyo wants the House to pass the proposed bill calling for the election of the delegates of a constitutional convention this October at the same time the barangay elections will be held.

“What I know is that I have never known of any instruction from the President about her plan to call a special session on this particular issue. There’s no such thing,” Ermita said.

“Indeed there is no such instruction. I don’t know whether that was ever discussed even here among the Cabinet and for that matter, with the political adviser of the President,” he added. – With Marvin Sy, Jose Rodel Clapano

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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