, OCTOBER 8, 2011 (STAR)  By Christina Mendez  - Sen. Franklin Drilon acknowledged yesterday that without President Aquino’s approval and cooperation, efforts to amend the Constitution by Congress would likely fail.

Drilon explained that the amendment of the Constitution is basically a function of Congress as a constituent assembly but it needs the support of the President.

“But as a reality, it (Charter change) is extremely difficult if not impossible without the support of the President. We (proponents) must have the support of the President in order to succeed in this effort. As a political exercise, it will not be successful without the support of the President,” he said.

Malacañang categorically declared that Aquino is against any amendment to the 1987 Constitution – whether in part or in full – and that there is no secret deal to change the Charter with his allies both in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“A secret favor? There’s no such thing. The President has already mentioned publicly that he is against it, or rather it is not a priority at this time to amend the Constitution,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Speaking at a weekly media forum at the Senate, Drilon said he and his allies would remain steadfast in trying to convince President Aquino to support the proposed Charter amendments.

“I am sure the President has not closed his mind at this point, the latest announcement that we hear from Malacañang is that he is listening. We will exert our efforts to convince him, that it is high time that we take a look at the economic provisions of the Constitution,” Drilon said.

Drilon is the chairman of the Liberal Party, the political party of Aquino.

The Senate and the House of Representatives last week agreed in principle to adopt a bicameral constituent assembly as a mode of amending certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. have concurred and supported Drilon’s proposal to have both chambers vote separately on bills involving Charter change.

Amid fears that any move to amend the Charter would also mean amending the political provisions, Drilon assured the people that he would oppose any proposal for political amendments.

“And the way the Senate works, we can stall the debates ‘til kingdom come if one senator does not agree to a proposal,” he said.

He added that any amendment to the political provision, say for the change of the form of government, would have to hurdle both chambers of Congress apart from a qualified majority and three-fourths of all the members voting for an amendment.

“So if you could not hurdle in both Houses a particular proposal, it will never succeed; number two, the commitment of the political leaders is that it should be limited to economic provisions,” Drilon said.

He said it is high time to amend the 1987 Constitution, especially now that the President enjoys a high credibility rating, and that he had stated many times that he had no intentions “to stay a day longer after 2016.”

“The advantage of this administration is that we have a President who enjoys credibility, whose sincerity of not amending the Constitution for his benefit, he is not interested in re-election, he does not intend to stay one day longer after June 30, 2016. So this is the best time in my mind that we can take a good look at the Constitution,” Drilon added.

Asked further if Congress would push through with the proposals even without the President’s consent, Drilon said: “We do realize that without the political support of the President, it will not succeed. The resolution is just a first step.

“Remember, it is just the process we are talking about here. The substantive amendments will come later on and without the support of the President, we will not be able to push this.”

Drilon said if the Chief Executive finally gives his go signal, the amendments would be finished before Aquino’s term is over.

He also defended Charter change through a bicameral constituent assembly.

He said the bicameral body is authorized to propose amendments to the Constitution, which will be ratified by the people. “That is why it’s called a constituent assembly because you represent a constituent,” he said.

Drilon said legislation has two functions: to enact laws and to propose amendments to the Constitution. After a bicameral constituent assembly, Drilon said the senators and congressmen will “vote separately” on the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Lacierda clarified that as soon as the lawmakers announced they want the economic provisions in the Charter amended, they immediately sought the President’s opinion, and the President texted them back, saying that changing the law of the land will not be a priority of his administration.

“We immediately inquired from the President what his position was and right off the bat, we got a text from the President and he said ‘my position still holds firm’. There’s no such thing, a collusion between the President and his allies,” Lacierda maintained.

Lacierda made the statement in reaction to the observation of House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, who believes that congressional allies don’t usually move without the President’s approval.

Lagman said it is hard to believe that “a Chief Executive who keeps his congressional subalterns on such a tight leash would give them such leeway on a matter as fundamental as amending the Constitution.”

The 1987 Constitution was framed and made effective during the time of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino. It has been dubbed as the “Freedom Constitution” having been made after a popular revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Based on Lagman’s theory, Aquino always got what he wanted with his House allies, citing the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez last May, and the enactment (but which the SC stopped) of the “defective” Aturonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) law postponing the Aug. 8 polls. With Delon Porcalla


Tourism, alcohol good bedfellows BY AMADO P. MACASAET

Is there sense in promoting tourism by exporting locally distilled whiskey, brandy, sangria and even gin? Destileria Limtuaco & Co., founded in 1852 by an entrepreneur in the Parian district, says there is.

The proof is increasing sales to Switzerland, Sweden, China, Hong Kong and Guam, although the bulk goes to the three Asian territories. The number of tourists attracted by these products is unquantifiable.

Negotiations are under way with some importers in the United States.

Olivia Limpe Aw, the sixth-generation chief executive officer of the 159-year-old distillery, has the simple sense of using raw materials the Philippines is known for.

Thus, the Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur has mango as main raw material and its packaging prominently displays the fruit.

Ms. Aw says Destileria Limtuaco has stolen a march on both local and foreign competitors by producing the first mango rum liqueur in the world.

Officials of the company are proud of the certificate given on May 19, 2006 by the International Taste & Quality Institute of Brussels bestowing Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur its "superior taste award."

In 2004, Paradise Mango Rum Liqueur won the Asean G-Mark award "for best design" in the food and beverage category.

The first award was received in 2002 from Citem’s Asian Ethic Foodfest as "the trendiest product."

The company may soon include in its export portfolio its ready-to-drink guyabano and lemon (calamansi) juice contained in expensive-looking glass bottles.

The display and sales of Destileria Limtuaco distilled spirits will start soon at the duty-free shops in Fiesta Mall near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Ms. Aw said the company’s effort to help tourism made necessary the sale in the same duty-free shops of jewelry products, handicraft and scarves designed and handcrafted by inmates of the national penitentiary.

Apart from the mango rum liqueur, the company which has had three locations in the past 159 years – starting in Binondo, moving to Grace Park in Caloocan City and now permanently settled along North Edsa – Destileria Limtuaco, is also exporting its White Castle brand of whiskey and Napoleon VSOP brandy.

The effort to expand sales of the liqueur is complemented by an agreement with the Department of Tourism to include the products of the company in the latter’s duty-free shop outlets.

In an exclusive interview, Ms. Aw wondered aloud why the Philippines seems to be the only country in the democratic world that has a string of duty-free shops that sell imported cigarettes, chocolates, whiskey, cognac and an array of about 30 other brands or types of distilled spirits.

The company started exporting only in 2002. Ms. Aw says the growth is slow but steady such that the value now accounts for a larger percentage of total sales. The company, like most if not nearly all of Chinese-Filipino firms, has been deeply conservative but keeps its ears on the ground for technology and market developments.

Ms. Aw says the duty-free shops are one of the best show windows of quality products, distilled spirits included, that can tell tourists of the best tropical fruits the Philippines can grow.

Nothing beats mangoes, Ms. Aw said.

Destileria Limtuaco has never been loquacious about is products and operations. However, Ms. Aw says it is competing actively in the gin market with its Kelly brand.

She observed that there is a big market for quality but less expensive drinks, considering that 89 percent of households have only P150 a week to spend on hard drinks.

Around 85 percent of them serve as the market for drinks that retail at an average of between P60 and P65 per 700 ml bottle. A few of the products are distilled by Destileria Limtuaco.

At 159, Destileria Limtuaco is the oldest company in the distillery business in the same way that Banco de las Islas Pilipinas, now known as the Bank of the Philippine Islands, is the oldest bank going strong at 165.

Destileria Limtuaco and BPI were both founded by foreigners, the distillery by a Chinese from Xiamen and BPI by some Spaniards.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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