Drilon: Cha-cha was laid to rest during SONA

THE President’s silence on federalism during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) speaks volumes, indicating that Charter change (Cha-cha) is not a priority of the Duterte administration anymore, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday.

“What’s more telling in the President’s speech is not what he said but what he did not say. That speaks volumes,” Drilon said referring to the non-mention of federalism and Charter change, one of the President’s top campaign promises.

“For me, the non-inclusion of federalism indicates that the Cha-cha was laid to rest yesterday. The SONA became Cha-cha’s ‘final resting place,’” Drilon said.

The President’s post-SONA press conference confirmed Drilon’s observation, where the President conceded that Cha-cha won’t happen during his time.

“Hence, those who have plans to revive it this 18th Congress should better think twice. It will be an exercise in futility,” Drilon said.

Earlier, House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano said he would push to extend the term of office of lawmakers.

Drilon also expressed support to some of the President’s “wish-list” to Congress, save for some particularly the reimposition of the death penalty in the country.

“We may not always see eye to eye with the President on certain issues, but in terms of legislation that will benefit the country, we are always ready to support him,” Drilon said.

The minority leader said he supports the proposed salary standardization law, the increase in teacher’s salary and the creation of a water department.

In fact, Drilon said that two of his pet bills call for the increase in the salary of teachers and the creation of the Philippine Water Commission to manage and regulate the country’s water resources.

While Cha-cha was laid to rest, the death penalty is being resurrected, receiving the biggest push from the President during SONA.

Drilon, however, remained firm, reiterating that the four-member opposition in the newly-opened 18th Congress will fight it “tooth and nail.”

“As I said before, it may appear as an uphill battle, but we are more than prepared to oppose it. We do not agree that death penalty is the solution to our illegal drugs and corruption problems. Death penalty is anti poor,” Drilon said.

“We have a very weak justice system that is very prone to error. What we need to do is to strengthen our justice system and show the people that our laws are working,” he added.

The President mentioned his intention to raise sin taxes anew. Drilon said his group supported the additional excise tax on tobacco last 17th Congress. The bill is currently in the President’s desk for approval.

Drilon is the author of the Sin Tax Reform Law that raised the excises taxes of tobacco and alcohol products in 2012, which generated funds for the country’s health-related programs, while substantially decreasing the prevalence of smoking in the country.

Drilon also said they are also ready to examine all the other measures stated in the SONA.

“We are willing to listen and take a look at the proposals on the proposed tax reform law, the Land Use Act and the creation of the disaster management department,” he added.