By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star)
Updated December 03, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - The fate of initiatives to change the Charter to pave the way for a parliamentary form of government will depend on President Arroyo’s successor and on the next Congress, according to Speaker Prospero Nograles.
“First, it depends on who will be the next president. Second, it depends on who will compose the 15th Congress because they will elect the next Speaker,” he said.
Nograles, who is running for mayor of Davao City, was commenting on speculations that Mrs. Arroyo might seek the position of Speaker and work on Cha-cha and eventually on a parliamentary system, under which she could become prime minister.
The President has filed her certificate of candidacy for representative of the second district of Pampanga. The incumbent representative of the district is her eldest son Juan Miguel or Mikey, who is reportedly eyeing a party-list seat.
Critics claim that Mrs. Arroyo wants to become prime minister so she could continue to enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. She would not have such privilege as a congresswoman.
Militant groups and victims of alleged human rights abuses under her watch have been preparing criminal and plunder charges against her and some members of her family.
Nograles said it’s only after the May 10, 2010 elections that the nation would have an indication of whether its next set of leaders would pursue Cha-cha.
He said the next president and the incoming batch of lawmakers would determine the country’s legislative agenda.
“Today, it’s all speculation,” he added. Of all the presidential aspirants, it is only former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Lakas-Kampi standard-bearer, who has publicly made known his stand in favor of amending the Constitution through a constitutional convention.
He said he would call for Cha-cha at the start of his term so he would not be suspected of being motivated by self-interest.
He said he could live with the presidential system but with a unicameral or one-chamber legislature, instead of the present two-chamber Congress.
He is also in favor of amending the Charter’s economic provisions to allow foreigners to own land but with certain restrictions.
Liberal Party presidential candidate and survey leader Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is not expected to favor a move that would tinker with or mangle the Constitution which was written during the time of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.
The House, under the leadership of former speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and Nograles, had been trying in vain to amend the Charter to shift the nation to the parliamentary system.
Before De Venecia and Mrs. Arroyo parted ways, the House had voted to convene as a constituent assembly (con ass) and bypass senators on Cha-cha. But three days after taking the vote, the President and her congressmen-allies retreated on their Cha-cha offensive.
According to the former speaker, Mrs. Arroyo backtracked after religious leaders warned her that they would lead a large protest against Cha-cha.
“She was afraid that protesters, accompanied by bishops, might march on Malacañang and topple her,” De Venecia said.
In June this year, Mrs. Arroyo’s House allies approved Resolution 1109, which sought to convene “members of Congress,” even if they were all congressmen, as a con ass.