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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 22, 2018
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Benitez defends
Alvarez on zero budget
BY GILBERT BAYORAN & CARLA GOMEZ

Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) yesterday came to the defense of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who threatened to give a “zero budget” to local government leaders, who will not support federalism.

“I think what he was saying was his prerogative, or right, to decide, on who will be given or not,” Benitez said.

But it appears that there is no need for such a threat in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City with almost all of the officials already supporting the shift to federalism.

Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said he is for federalism, and seminars on such a move are being held in Bacolod.

“It's time we make the Constitution dynamic and responsive to the call of the times“, Leonardia said.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said “That will not affect us, we support charter change.”

Marañon said that from the very start he has been for federalism, that is why he did not support the constitution that was adopted under the administration of then president Corazon Aquino.

“I was for federalism but people did not listen to us then, Cory was a very popular president,” he said.

At the end of the day, maybe we should answer first, what should be the reason, why we are pushing for federalism, Benitez said, noting that people do not fully understand federalism and what they will get from it.

“If we can answer that, and people see it as a better form of government, maybe that is the proper time we have to push it,” he said.

Benitez and Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod Partylist) yesterday debunked accusations the charter change is being railroaded in the House of Representatives.

Even before the campaign period for the May 2016 elections, Benitez said federalism was already being talked about, which was also followed by series of consultations.

So, on the matter of railroading, it is not true, Benitez stressed.

Paduano called the accusations that the House of Representatives is railroading the process “unfair”, following the statement of Alvarez that he will push the plan to convene Congress as a Constituent Assembly, with or without the participation of the Senate.

The senators have maintained that the Constitution is clear about the independence of the two chambers of Congress.

If the Lower House and the Senate have the same objective and goals, “why should we debate on how to vote?” Benitez asked.

Maybe, what we should answer, is if what we are doing is for the good for the greater majority, he stressed.

At the end of the day, as a democratic institution, the majority wins, Benitez said.

But former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela asked: “Who gave the Speaker the right to treat the budget like it was his money? This is nothing but undisguised blackmail.”*GPB/CPG

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