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Senators thumb down DILG’s Cha-cha signature drive amid COVID-19 crisis

Senators on Sunday objected to the reported move of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to continue gathering signatures showing support for introducing amendments to the 1987 Constitution even as the country struggles with the COVID-19 crisis.

In a statement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that now is not the time for the DILG to gather signatures to back Charter change (Cha-cha).

"They should focus more on the safety and food security of the people. I'm sure the President has not ordered anything to that effect," he said.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the DILG has directed its regional offices to continue with the department's campaign to gather up to two million signatures over the next couple of months to support "constitutional reforms."

The said signatures will then be submitted to Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the DILG's drive is "a total waste of time and resources."

“Habang ang mga Pilipino ay wala ng makain at nawalan ng trabaho, isusubo natin itong Cha-cha?” Drilon said.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic. The country is grappling to contain COVID-19 and deal with its aftermath. To talk about Cha-cha is the height of insensitivity,” he added.

Drilon told the DILG not to use COVID-19 activities to promote Cha-cha and forward their agenda.

“It will only create distraction, division and unnecessary noise,” he said.

“The Congress and the executive branch should work together to pursue legislation that will help revive the economy and restore the jobs temporarily and permanently lost due to the pandemic. That should be the focus, not Cha-cha,” he added.

For his part, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Cha-cha should be the least of the government's priorities especially that the country is currently being hit by COVID-19.

"The current effort is out of touch with current realities and is an insult to millions of our citizens who have lost their jobs, who are experiencing unprecedented hunger and who continue to be threatened by the spread of this incurable disease," he said.

"May oras pa sila mag-Cha-cha habang yung kawalan ng trabaho at pagkain ng milyong taumbayan, kawalan ng maayos na mass testing at contact tracing at pati na rin ang kakulangan ng suporta sa mga frontliners sa mga ospital e hindi nila masolusyonan," he added.

Sotto has earlier said that Cha-cha is not among the priorities of the Senate. — Erwin Colcol/BM, GMA News