Press Release
December 11, 2006

Time to put cha-cha behind us now, Drilon urges GMA, JDV;
says approval of 2007 budget more important

Liberal Party President Franklin Drilon today urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Speaker Jose de Venecia and the majority bloc of the House of Representatives to put the controversial issue of Charter Change "behind us now" and instead attend to the country's problems such as the enactment of the proposed 2007 P1.126 trillion national budget.

"My appeal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Speaker Joe de Venecia and the House majority bloc is for us to put this Cha-cha controversy behind us now. The people have spoken. The Supreme Court has spoken. As they say: Tama na, sobra na. Bayan naman. Let's stop this unpopular campaign to change the Constitution at this time," said Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

In an interview with ANC television, Drilon echoed the statement of former Constitutional Convention member Fr. Joaquin Bernas that while the 1987 Philippine Constitution could stand certain improvements, "the single biggest argument against the proposal to change the form of government is the behavior of the House of Representatives now."

"I think it is time for us to move forward, put all of these incidents which have caused us political instability behind us. Let us face the future with a resolve to address many other problems facing the nation," Drilon added. "No one can deny that this Cha-cha controversy has clearly divided the Filipino people and has caused too much political instability and tension in the country that is affecting the economy in a negative way."

The Senate Finance Committee chief also urged De Venecia and his House counterpart Rep. Joey Salceda to finally convene the House panel to the Bicameral Conference Committee that will thresh out the differences in the Senate and House versions of the proposed 2007 national budget.

"The Senate has passed the budget as early as December 4, as scheduled. Two days after, we have designated conferees to the bicameral conference committee. Until now, we are still waiting for a response from the House," Drilon noted.

Senate President Manny Villar himself warned that the passage of the proposed 2007 budget before the end of the year might be sidetracked by the House of Representatives' preoccupation with Charter change.

Drilon and Villar noted that the House, which devoted last week's sessions entirely to amending its rules and passing a resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly, has yet to form a panel for the bicameral conference committee, dimming the early passage of the General Appropriations Act for 2007.

Drilon, who will chair the Senate panel, said he was apprehensive that unless both panels met this week and threshed out some of the major differences in their versions of the money measures, the passage of the budget could be sidetracked. The bicameral conference committee has less than two weeks to tackle the budget before Congress adjourns for the holidays on Dec. 22, Drilon said.

Drilon said Senate Secretary Oscar Yabes has written De Venecia Jr. a letter dated Dec 6, informing the House leadership of the need for the holding the bicam meeting to reconcile the disagreeing provision of the budget measure.

Instead of wasting time on charter change, Drilon said it was better for Congress members to concentrate their efforts in working a reconciled version of the proposed 2007 budget which he said "should not focus solely on the imperatives of economic growth" but should be "a national budget that pursues growth with equity."

Drilon noted the Senate made substantial fund realignments in the House and Malacanang versions of the proposed 2007 budget to beef up allocations for public education, agriculture and agrarian reform and health services.

To achieve political stability and to calm down the current political tension, Drilon suggested that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should now reveal the schedule of activities related to the holding of the midterm elections in May next year.

"Comelec can now issue what you call the political calendar for next year such as the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy; the timetable on the campaign period," Drilon said. "This will give the Filipino people an opportunity to look forward to the May election. It will create an atmosphere that we are now going through this process of electing our new set of representatives rather than go through these speculations that the May elections being postponed, that the incumbent congressmen will extend their terms of office and the lifting of the term limits. All of these provide political uncertainty and it affects our economy. It affects our people."

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