PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — HOUSE Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. yesterday dared Charter change critics to come forward and argue in favor of the existing presidential, bicameral system of government against the pro-Cha-cha’s parliamentary, unicameral system as he complained that all he had been getting were personal attacks from Cha-cha opponents.
“Those who are against constitutional reforms, those who are against the parliamentary system, those who are against the unicameral system, I have never seen them come forward and tell us to defend the presidential system,” De Venecia said.
“Why don’t they come forward and say they want to stick to the presidential system? Why don’t they come forward and say they want to stick by the bicameral system? And what are their arguments for pushing, promoting the existing or continuing with the presidential system?” the House leader asked.
“Inaatake lang kami lagi, panay ang atake, puro personal ang atake sa akin. Ipresent na lang nila ang kanilang arguments,” De Venecia dared.
Opposition congressmen opposing Charter change readily took up the challenge to a debate. “Anytime, anywhere,” was the common reply of Minority Leader Francis Escudero, Deputy Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Liberal Party Rep. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Cayetano even challenged De Venecia and his pro-Cha-cha allies. “If they win the debate, we will join the Cha-cha train, but if we win the debate they should not push through with Cha-cha and join us in asking PGMA to resign.”
The three opposition lawmakers took exception to De Venecia’s statement that what he has been getting from Cha-cha opponents were personal attacks.
Escudero said De Venecia was dodging the issue. “Even before going into the merits, we question the Senate-less Con-Ass avenue he wants to take. Why can’t they just follow what the law says—get three-fourths of the House and three-fourths of the Senate. Besides, I beg to disagree that I am attacking personalities and not issues,” he explained.
De Venecia said Charter change opponents should attend the Constituent Assembly to put forward their arguments so that there could be a debate that could enlighten the electorate on the issues.
“Constituent Assembly is just the first step. The second step is the plebiscite where the Filipino people will decide whether they want the amendments we propose or not,” he explained.
According to De Venecia, Charter change advocates have articulated their position for reforms not only in the structure of government but also the improvements these would bring about in the economy and in people’s lives.
“We have presented our arguments time and time again that the parliamentary system is superior to the presidential system, that the unicameral system of only one House instead of two Houses is less expensive for the Filipino people, is less prone to gridlock and deadlock and the bicameral system has prevented the passage of laws. Instead of passing a bill in 30 days, it takes two to three years in passing a bill and sometimes, not even in three years. This is my fourth term as Speaker and I have seen bills that have been there since my first term. They’ve sat on and slept on those in the Senate. I am not blaming the senators. They’re also victims of the system,” De Venecia said.
He said the argument that what needs to be changed is the people in government and not the system of government “is easier said than done.”