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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, February 5, 2018
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‘Intimidating atmosphere
not right for Cha-cha now'

The intimidating political atmosphere today is not conducive to a free discussion on Charter Change, Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares said yesterday.

That is why Colmenares, a former congressman from Negros Occidental, said he is rallying the public to oppose any Charter Change under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We urge the various groups, including people's organizations, the church, and other sectors who opposed self-serving Cha-chas before, to come out once more and vigorously oppose this new attempt to impose another self-serving Cha-cha and Con Ass that will only worsen the already dire condition of the Filipino people”, he said.

The current Cha-chaattemptisthe worst because it enshrines the pork barrel system in the Constitution, Colmenares claimed.

Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District), however, said it is premature to come to such conclusion. “The structure is still being deliberated on,” he said.

The majority of Negros and Bacolod officials have aired their support for Cha-cha to enable a shift towards a federal form of government.

Colmenaressaid  “There have been many Cha-chas in the previous administrations but this is the first Cha-cha that contains a Constitution with pork barrel enshrined.”

There is a pork barrel provision on page 1 of the Draft Constitution of Sub Committee No. 1 of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendment, he said.

The provision states that“Each district shall be entitled to an annual share in the state and federal budgets for its infrastructure, as well as for the medical, educational and social services of its inhabitants. Each member of the Senate and of the party list shall likewise be entitled to an amount not less than the allocation for a district from the state and federal budgets for their constituents within the region or nationwide.”

It is clear from the provision that an “amount” will be allocated to each Senator, each party list Congressman, as well as district Congressmen, Colmenares said.

The worse part is, this amount for members of Congress who are national officials, will also be deducted from the regional state budget, he said.

“Federalism is supposed to disperse funds from the national government to the regions and provinces, but this reverses that purpose”,Colmenares said.

“This is an attempt to reverse the Supreme Court decision that pork barrel in the form of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cannot be provided in the national budget.  This forced Malacañang and Congress to hide the pork barrel in the budget of executive departments,” Colmenares said.

If the current push for Cha-cha succeeds, there is no need to hide pork barrel in the departments since the new Constitution allows it, said Colmenares, principal author of House Bill 1535 in the 16th Congress abolishing pork barrel.

 “This is one more reason why members of Congress cannot sit as a Constituent Assembly as Concurrent Resolution 9 demands.  They cannot decide on self-serving constitutional provisions such as term extensions, no-elections and giving themselves pork barrel,” he added.*CPG



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