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House body to conduct nationwide consultation on Cha-cha

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Determined to be approved by the 15th Congress, the committee on constitutional amendments of the House of Representatives on Tuesday said it will conduct a nationwide consultations this month to get the opinion of the public on Charter change (Cha-cha).

House panel chair and Misamis Occidental Rep. Loreto Ocampos, at the hearing, said the multi-sectoral consultations will start in Cagayan de Oro City to "feel the public’s pulse" on Cha-cha.

"The overall projection is we will sell Charter change. From among ourselves, there seems to be an unofficial consensus that we will push for Cha-cha because we see compelling reasons for it," he said in a chance interview after the hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Ocampos said the public consultations will also try to assess the level of public awareness on Charter change.

On the other hand, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said that although the panel will push for Cha-cha, gauging the public’s opinion on amending the 1987 Constitution will still be the committee’s priority.

"We’ll take a back seat in the sense na pauunahin muna natin sila magsalita (we will get the public's perception on the issue first) so we will not dominate the discussions and also not influence their opinion," he said.

Meanwhile, Ocampos said the nationwide public consultations will focus on four major areas where amendments are needed based on the committee’s discussions -- form of government and legislature, local government, judicial reforms, and economic reforms.

He said the body plans to finish the consultation by September, to ensure that moves to amend the Charter will be approved in the Lower Chamber before 2013.

"If we will miss the Constitutional amendments this year, maybe we can forget about... Every time we discuss Cha-cha on an election year, confidence level will go down. We have to move fast this year," he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone filed last January a bill to amend the 1987 Constitution, saying now is the best time for Cha-cha because President Benigno S. Aquino III has vowed not to run for any elective post in 2016.

Palace officials said that the President still needs to be convinced on the need for Constitutional amendments.

Ocampos admitted that the House needs to get Malacanang’s support for Cha-cha to prosper in Congress.

"Frankly, we will also like to see the signal of Malacanang. Everybody has to be on-board, otherwise we will go nowhere," he said.

By Lilybeth G. Ison-PNA




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