Senators on Friday downplayed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s call to the public not to elect senators who will not support the administration’s proposed shift to federalism.
Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are currently impasse over the charter change proposal. Senators have agreed not to participate in a joint constituent assembly (con-ass) initiated by the lower chamber to amend the 1987 Constitution.
On Thursday, Alvarez urged public not to vote for senators who disapprove federalism, as it shows that they are also opposed to the benefits that can be obtained from the new form of government.
Responding to Alvarez’s suggestion, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that it would even “help make our upcoming election for senator at least issue-based.”
Pimentel, who eyes for a re-election in 2019, is the president of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), the ruling party which is strongly pushing for the government’s transition into a federal form.
When asked whether his colleagues are supporting federalism, Pimentel said in a text message, “For the concept of federalism, a lot of my colleagues are maintaining ‘an open mind’ but the ‘devil is in the details.’”
The only sitting senator who is also a member of PDP-Laban aside from Pimentel is Senator Manny Pacquiao.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said Alvarez’s statement will probably have “no effect” on the chances of those who will run a for senate seat in the 2019 elections.
“Okay lang (it’s okay). Negative campaigning is not disallowed. I’m not worried of issues like that…I will surely campaign for my Senate line-up,” Sotto said.
“[That has] no effect. I’ve been involved in 10 senatorial elections since 1987 and in my experience, negative campaigning on issues barely make a dent,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said, “It is unfortunate that the Speaker resorted to threats and even name calling to pressure the Senate to relinquish its check and balance role as specified by our Constitution.”
The House speaker also said that leaders or politicians who will not support federalism will be given a “zero budget.”
This statement, however, left the senators unfazed.
“I have yet to see the connection between federalism and developing the countryside. They haven’t even adequately discussed what type of federalism they want to pursue that will ensure this,” Senator Francis Escudero said, referring how the House quickly adopted a resolution seeking to convene Congress into a con-ass.
Gatchalian stressed that the call to amend the Constitution for the purpose of switching to a federal form of government thus far shows that “the only clear benefactors of this endeavor are the politicians who will perpetuate themselves to power.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, warned that the “House cha-cha train will get derailed even before it leaves the station.”
“The Filipino people will see the real plan in federalism: suspend elections, extend the terms of members of Congress, and do away with the check and balance system by abolishing the Senate,” Drilon said.
The Minority Leader added that the issue at this point is “the brazen move of the House to impose and railroad Cha-cha (Charter change) without public debate and participation.”
Drilon sustained that “senators are willing to face the people on their stand on federalism.”