Charter Change consultations begin: Five-year term of office? Shift to federal?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/28 May) –  A five-year term of office for local officials and representatives to Congress?  Shift to federal system of government? Depoliticize the judiciary? Review IRA allocation?

These were among the issues tackled during a consultation by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments at the Mindanao University of Science and Technology last Friday.

The house committee headed by Misamis Occidental 2nd district Rep. Loreto Leo Ocampos divided the charter change discussions into four substantive themes: judicial reforms, form of government, economic reforms and local government reforms.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the second district of Cagayan de Oro led the discussion on the proposed changes in the form of government. The talking points, he said, are whether there is a need to change the unitary system to federal system and from presidential form to parliamentary system.

Rep. Rachel Arenas of Pangasinan’s 2nd district, facilitated discussions on local government reforms. She said they are looking into term extension of elected officials and review of  the allocation of Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). She said there are now proposals to make the term of House Representatives and local government officials to two consecutive five-year terms from the three-year term.

Arenas said they are looking into a more equitable distribution of the IRA fund.

House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada in his presentation on judicial reforms said  the problem of the judiciary that needs to be addressed by charter change are the issues on confidence in the judiciary and the clogged judicial dockets.

Tanada said they are interested to look into proposals to depoliticize the judiciary, look into the power of the courts to review cases based on “grave abuse of discretion, and the creation of Constitutional courts.

Ocampos led the discussion on economic reforms. The core issue, he said, would be how to increase Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the country. He cited International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) studies that saw the need to increase from 14 per cent to 20 per cent the country’s FD,  purportedly to have steady and sustainable growth.

Thorny issues on foreign ownership of land and corporations are at the center of the economic reforms discussion on charter change, said Ocampos.

Ocampos said they will conduct consultations in all the administrative regions in the country and hope to submit the Committee Report for plenary approval in September 2011.

“This is a tight schedule but we are doing our best as a delay in the approval could mean that charter change will have to wait until the 16th Congress because by 2012, the members of Congress will be focusing their energies on the 2013 elections,” Ocampos told MindaNews.

He added that the legislative measure they hope to pass before the year ends would call for a Constitutional Convention. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)