House passes draft federal charter on 2nd reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on second reading its draft constitution that seeks to shift to a federal form of government.

Resolution of Both Houses of Congress (RBH) No. 15, penned by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was approved through viva voce or voice voting during the plenary session.

It is now one step away from being passed by the lower chamber. Arroyo earlier said the lawmakers would focus on charter change this week.

Arroyo's draft was controversial for a number of reasons, including the removal of term limits for members of Congress and the lack of an anti-political dynasty provision. It earlier removed the Vice President in the succession line for the transition to a federal government, but was later restored after some backlash.

Arroyo has conceded that Congress cannot pass charter change under her watch, but stressed that the lawmakers "will bring it as far as we can bring it," hoping that the next Congress will be able to pass it. The 17th Congress ends session in 2019.

Senators, meanwhile, said there is no more time to tackle charter change in the upper chamber because of deliberations for the 2019 budget, which they target to pass before the year ends.

Federalism was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo 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 matter. This was among the contentious issues raised by the Senate.

But even with such compromise, some senators said charter change is "good as dead," as they suspect Arroyo would use it to stay in power, a claim the former President denied.

Vice President Leni Robredo hit the lower house for focusing on politicking instead of fixing the effects of the government's economic policies on the poor.

"Ang dapat tutukan ng ating Kongreso ay ang mga panukala na magpapababa sa presyo ng mga bilihin, at magbibigay ng trabaho sa ating mga kababayan. Unahin na natin ang ating mga kababayan, at mga alalahaning pinakamalapit sa kanilang bituka at pamumuhay, kaysa sa pamumulitika," she said in a statement.