Gatchalian: Senate won't allow cha-cha to be used for term extension

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — The Senate will not allow charter change to be used for a prolonged stay in power, Senator Win Gatchalian said Thursday.

The senator told CNN Philippines' The Source that charter change should be "about the Filipino people," not extending anyone's term.

"I can say this with certainty. The general sentiment of senators is we will not allow charter change to be a tool to perpetuate anyone's power or prolong anyone's authority," Gatchalian said.

His remarks come amid speculation that former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's controversial return to power will allow her to push for charter change — and a possible comeback in an even higher position. During her nine-year presidency, Arroyo also pushed for charter change — which her critics believed was a way of extending her term.

Senate President Tito Sotto maintained that the Upper House would not rush federalism, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte. Pulse Asia and SWS surveys have shown that most Filipinos are against revising the constitution, and are not aware of what charter change entails.


Gatchalian's colleague, Senator Grace Poe, did not take Arroyo's return to power lightly.

"Sa ating mga kababayan, maghanda lang kayo," Poe warned. "Pagka-ang mga namuno sa Kongreso ay i-railroad itong (charter change) at gawing parliamentary form, maaaring magising na lang kayo, either patas ang kapangyarihan (niya) sa pangulong binoto ninyo, o siya na ang magte-take over bilang Prime Minister."

[Translation: To our countrymen, be ready. If the heads of Congress railroad (charter change) and convert government to parliamentary form, you might wake up to (those people) holding equal powers as the President, or ready to take over as Prime Minister.]

Poe's father, actor Fernando Poe, Jr., ran against Arroyo in 2004 and lost. However, Arroyo's win is contested, amid the "Hello Garci" scandal and an admission in 2005 that she spoke to an election officer to protect her votes.

RELATED: Hold House Speaker Arroyo accountable for her human rights crimes - groups

However, Gatchalian said the majority has spoken regarding Arroyo's leadership. He even said the legislative arm might need her economic expertise.

"It's part of our democracy," he said. "Because Speaker GMA is known to be an economist, I would expect a lot of shift toward the economic reforms of the administration... I think we need that moving forward."

The senator also did not condemn the verbal tussle at the House of Representatives on Wednesday. When Majority Leader Rudy Farinas questioned Arroyo's election as House Speaker, he was shut down by Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya.

"It's really the prerogative of the Speaker at the moment to call the shots," said Gatchalian. "Typically... we give everyone a chance to speak, but there's a limitation also."

"I've seen worse, to be honest about it," he added.