House to prioritize Cha-cha over FOI

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Thursday, January 23, 2014


MANILA -- The long delayed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill would have to take a backseat in the House of Representatives as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is determined to make Charter Change (Cha-cha) one of the chamber's priorities.

In fact, Speaker Belmonte said the House committee on constitutional amendments could approve his proposed resolution to amend restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution in a month.

Under the "Resolution of Both Houses Proposing Amendments to Certain Economic Provisions of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines," Belmonte wants to insert the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" on Articles II, XII and XVI.

"You are not opening doors (to Cha-cha yet); you are simply providing a key to opening a door in case there is a need," Belmonte explained.

Belmonte said the public should not be wary of lawmakers extending their terms through Cha-cha vowing to personally shoot down proposals to amend political provisions of the Constitution.

"There is a widespread belief that members of Congress are interested in lifting term limits. Ang akin dito, I want to prove that we are not obsessed with term limits. I want to prove that it's possible for us to zero in on an important issue and to keep it there," he told reporters.

Belmonte's statements come just days after his close ally, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, said it would be impossible to pursue Cha-cha under the present 16th Congress.

"Frankly, I don't think so; I would disagree with the Majority Leader on that one...It's better if the Majority Leader talks to the Speaker once in a while. If this was the last session and half of the session is over, talagang wala ng time pero we're only in the first session," Belmonte said.

With Cha-cha on top of the House Speaker's priorities, the FOI bill will again have to take a backseat.

"I'd like to tackle Cha-cha first... May time pa naman after Cha-cha," Belmonte said.

The House committee on public information is yet to approve the FOI bill. After its approval in the committee level will it only be scheduled for plenary debates. (Sunnex)

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