Arroyo concedes Cha-cha may not be approved by 2019

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — Charter change may not come through by next year, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conceded on Wednesday.

"I don't expect the full fruition of charter change during my term as speaker, especially [since] there's going to be a plebiscite," Arroyo told CNN Philippines' The Source in an exclusive interview.

"But I will continue my efforts to bring it to the fullest extent possible within the limitations of term, in the hope those who will take it up afterward can bring it already to the full course," she added.

The timeline for a shift to a federal government has been up in the air, with some government allies gunning for a government plebiscite by next year. Others think it should at least be done by 2022, when President Rodrigo Duterte steps down.

Federalism was a campaign promise of Duterte, with whom Arroyo is allied. After he called on the swift passage of charter change in his State of the Nation Address, the House of Representatives filed a resolution that supported a separate vote from the Senate on the issue.

Arroyo said this was meant to "reduce one of the points of contention between the Senate and the House." Her predecessor Pantaleon Alvarez had insisted on a joint vote, which did not sit well with a number of lawmakers.

Despite this, several senators are still hesitant to touch charter change — at least as long as Arroyo is in the House. Critics such as Senator Grace Poe have accused the former President of harboring ambitions of becoming prime minister in order to prolong her stay in power.

Arroyo has dismissed these claims, saying the position was not provided for in the draft federal charter prepared by the Consultative Committee.

"I think people who keep raising that are people who want to stir up controversy," she said. "It's not in the draft that's submitted by the administration. So therefore, I have no plans to become prime minister."

The House Speaker maintained that she intends to retire from government service next year.

"Efforts [on charter change] must continue, but it will probably not bear the final fruit during my term as speaker," she said.