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Solons hit Cha-cha budget amid inflation; proponent says it's investment

Two opposition lawmakers questioned the proposed spending for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, saying funds should instead be spent to aid the poor amid rising costs.

Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado said the willingness to spend for charter change runs counter to the budget cuts implemented on certain budget items providing immediate aid to the Filipinos.

Deputy Minority Leader France Castro said that while Congress is talking about the billions of pesos required for charter change, only a measly P1,000 cash aid was set aside for every family considered among the poorest.

“The first amount of P2,000 aid for two months floated by the Marcos administration last February was already meager but it was slashed still to P1000 or P500 per month....samantalang nung sinabi na kakailanganin ng Charter Change sa pamamagitan ng constitutional convention (Con-con) ng di kukulangin ng P15 bilyon ay walang kakurap-kurap na may pera daw agad para dito," Castro said in a statement.

"Mabuti pang ibasura na ang Cha-cha at ilaan ang pera para dito sa ayuda," she added.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, House constitutional amendments committee chairperson, in response said funds to be spent to change the Constitution should be considered "investment, not expense,"

"We need the P9 billion to amend the economic provisions of our Constitution. This is not an expense but an investment for our people's welfare," he told GMA News Online.

"Once we lift the foreign investments restrictions, there will be an influx of foreign investments which will provide thousands of jobs for our people, and the payment of taxes to the government will finance social programs such as ayuda for poor households," Rodriguez added.

On Tuesday, the chamber approved on second reading House Bill 7352 which sets the composition of the constitutional convention (con-con) which will amend the 1987 Constitution.

The bill, which is the implementing measure of Resolution of Both Houses 6 calling for a con-con, also provides delegates a P10,000 per day of attendance compensation during con-con proceedings.

The con-con bill also provides that the con-con delegation will be composed of around 316 members, 80% of whom would be elected from congressional districts while 20% would be appointed by the President.

Prior to the approval, Deputy Majority Leader Lorenz Defensor said the administration has enough funds for con-con.

“Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to accommodate the expenses not only for the election of delegates but we are also prepared to fund the expenses for the  operations of the Constitutional Convention," he said.

Defensor said the Department of Budget and Management attended last month's deliberation of the Committee on Appropriations for the funding provision of con-con.

During the meeting, Defensor said the amount needed for the operation of the con-con and the subsequent plebiscite will be included in the General Appropriations Act.

"Considering that  the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, the Comelec (Commission on Elections) as well as the Department of Budget and Management, have confirmed that we will be able to fund this constitutional convention in the event that it will push through then we will have the necessary funds," he added.—LDF, GMA Integrated News