Press Release
January 16, 2006

Malacañang timeline on Cha-Cha "wishful thinking," says Drilon

"The timeline by Malacañang for Charter Change is wishful thinking."

Thus was the reaction today of Senate President and Liberal Party head Franklin Drilon to reports that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Speaker Jose de Venecia and Lakas will propose seven amendments to the Constitution in their bid to move the country to the parliamentary system in a period of six months.

Gabriel Claudio, the presidents political adviser, said the timeline proposed during the caucus of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party (Lakas-CMD) last Saturday, was doable. It included the approval of the proposed seven amendments either by Congress sitting as a constituent assembly or a people's initiative not later than March 22, 2006.

Drilon said the Senate, particularly the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, will have to conduct extensive public consultations and debates "on the merits of these proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution, and the preferred mode of amending the same."

"I am afraid this talk about imposing a timeline and forcing that the debates on Charter Change be finished by March is wishful thinking on the part of Malacañang ," Drilon explained.

By putting a timeline on when the process of amending the Constitution should be finished, Malacañang would be "turning off" a number of senators who may be in favor of Charter Change, Drilon said.

"Even Senators who may be supportive of Charter Change will agree with me that finishing the debates by March this year would be an impossible task," Drilon said.

The Senate President said that "even for the sake of argument, Malacañang can muster 13 votes in the Senate to endorse the convening of a constituent assembly; and then get 18 Senate votes to approve the proposed constitutional amendments, there is no may we can finish this process by March."

The Senate President also said he agreed with the views of his colleagues that will not be "dictated upon" by President Arroyo and Lakas-CMD into amending the 1987 Constitution.

"I am confident that the Senate will never succumb to these pressures exerted by Malacañang and Lakas leaders," Drilon said.

"Talking about changing our form of government is not an ordinary piece of legislation," Drilon said. "The last time I checked our Constitution, the Senate is still an institution whose concurrence is needed for this very important task."

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