Senatorial hopeful Neri Colmenares on Federalism and DFA data breach issue

Congressman Neri Colmenares comments on some of the pressing national issues today.

In a forum last January 15, Bayan Muna Party-list representative Neri Colmenares, seeking senatorial post in the 2019 midterm elections, shared with the media his comments on some of the pressing national issues today. 

Colmenares expressed charter change dangers, saying that a cancelled May 2019 is possible as senators are likely to green-light the Charter change (Cha-cha) measure approved by the House of Representatives to establish a federal system of government before the mid-term polls.

He said House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s version of the Federalism Charter is enticing too many, from senators down to local officials. “Imagine, you're taking out term limits, so there's no need for a senator or congressman to step down for one term. Secondly, political dynasty is always an issue," he said.

In December last year, the House of Representatives approved Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15. RHB 15 seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution by dividing the country to federal states which will each have the authority to manage its resources and craft its laws, including taxation.

Other proposed amendments include lifting the term limits of members of both houses of Congress, requiring college degrees for appointed and elected officials, adding lawless violence as a basis to declare martial law and mandating voters to elect a President and Vice President from the same political party or ticket. 

Also in the draft charter, President Rodrigo Duterte will lead a 10-member Transition Commission on Federalism as the country prepares to shift towards a federal form of government. Transition period will take place from 2019 to 2022, Puno said. 

Despite the Senate’s earlier statements that it is not keen on passing any measure shifting to federalism, Colmenares still showed apprehension that with provisions such as lifting the term limits of lawmakers, senators are likely to approve the House-approved version of Cha-cha. 

Meanwhile, on the recent issue of the alleged data breach in the passport system, Colmenares said, the passport data mess could have been prevented if passport printing was not subcontracted to a private company, adding that government enterprises like Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or the National Printing Office.

This sentiment came following reports that former private contractor, Oberthur, reportedly ran away with all the passport data when its contract was abruptly terminated to give way to the entry of APO Printing Unit, a tiny and little-known division under the Presiden­tial Communications Office (formerly the Office of the Press Secretary). 

Oberthur is a French company that was hired by the BSP through bidding, to supply all the materials necessary to pro­duce the machine-readable electronic passports (MREPs). 

The 58-year old human rights lawyer closed the briefing by saying that he is giving the Senate another shot to be the voice of ordinary citizens. He said his platform will focus on raising the wages of workers, removal of the excise tax, a ban on contractualization and the abolition of the value-added tax on electricity, water and petroleum. 

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