Debate over Cha Cha Heating Up

Calling current moves to amend the 1987 Constitution as “Malacañang’s initiative,” a broad array of leaders from the opposition and people’s organizations gathered once more to reiterate their resistance to Cha-Cha through people’s initiative, as proposed by Sigaw ng Bayan.

BY EMILY VITAL
Bulatlat.com

Amid two-pronged tactics to push forward the changing of the Constitution, a broad array of leaders reiterated their resistance to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s charter change.

In a leaders’ meeting, Sept. 13 at the Club Filipino, opposition congressmen and senators, leaders of people’s organizations, churches and faiths, business community and academe declared their “unequivocal and resolute” opposition to Arroyo’s charter change.

Former President Corazon Aquino, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Zenaida Quezon-Avanceña, Bro Eddie Villanueva, Bro. Armin Luisto, FCS, former Sen. Vicente Paterno attended the meeting.

Also present were Sens. Franklin Drilon and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and Reps. Benigno Aquino III and Francis Escudero, Allan Peter Cayetano, Darlyn Antonino-Custodio, as well as Party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño.

Progressive groups under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), leaders of the Oust Gloria Coalition, Black and White Movement, Laban ng Masa (Fight of the Masses) also joined the assembly.

In a statement of unity, they expressed their concern “about the rush toward charter change through a people’s initiative and/or constituent assembly (ConAss) which would reverse the country’s democratic principles, institutions and processes gained after many years of struggle against the Marcos martial law regime.

Guingona, in his opening remarks, said that Arroyo’s cha-cha is being advanced at a wrong time, manner and intent. Guingona said, “Nais lang nila ng cha-cha para makalimutan ang mga kasalanan ng nakaraan gaya ng Hello Garci, fertilizer scam, OWWA funds. Katotohanan muna!” (They are pushing for cha-cha to cover up the sins of the past such as the Hello Garci tapes, fertilizer scam, and dissipation of funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Agency.)

Strongman rule

Paterno, who used to be a member of the Constitutional Commission (ConCom), said that the transitory provisions will lead to the “solidification of the presidency.” The ConCom was created by Arroyo to draft recommendations for cha-cha, which was subsequently submitted to the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

Paterno related, “We were working for reforms. In the last two days, dumating ang mga panukala (proposals came), I think, galing sa Malakanyang na binigkas niAtty. Lambino and Rowena Bengzon.” (It came from Malacañang and was articulated by Atty. Lambino and Rowena Bengzon).

Lambino and Bengzon were the leaders of the Sigaw ng Bayan (People’s Voice) pushing for the people’s initiative. Paterno questioned Sigaw ng Bayan’s petition for a plebiscite to decide the proposed amendments. Paterno said that the question formulated by Sigaw ng Bayan in its proposed plebiscite cannot be answered by a mere yes or no. The question, he said, does not even mention the transitory provisions.

The Sigaw ng Bayan calls for a unicameral parliament which will mean abolition of the Senate and the lengthening of terms of the members of Parliament from three to five years. Paterno said this will perpetuate the power of Arroyo and her allies.

In the transitory provisions, Paterno revealed, the President will have full executive powers until 2010. “Article XVIII will mean increased powers of the incumbent President.”

He further said that it is not the members of Parliament who will choose the Prime Minister but the President. The PM then, Paterno said, will perform duties as may be delegated to him by the incumbent President. “The transition is contrary to logic,” he said.

Further amendments to the Constitution will also lengthen the terms of local government officials, Paterno said. “This is why the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) is persistent in pushing for cha-cha,” he said.

Fake signatures

Former Rep. Lualhati Antonino of the 1st district of South Cotabato said that the Sigaw ng Bayan used money to gather signatures. “We talked to our barangay captains. They told us that local officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave them five pesos for each signature,” she said.

Antonino said that their district has 358,521 registered voters and that the 8, 676 signatures gathered by Sigaw ng Bayan were fake. Antonino said they only got 2.42 percent of the total number of votes.

Comelec

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Francis Escudero found dubious the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the Sigaw ng Bayan’s petition.

Escudero said there was not a single public hearing. The Comelec, Escudero said, prohibited the filing of motion for reconsideration. “Si Lambino, humahalakhak pang umakyat sa Korte Suprema. Nakakaduda ang mga kaganapan.” (Lambino was even laughing when he went to the Supreme Court. These events arouse suspicion.)

The Sigaw ng Bayan filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.

Petition to intervene

In a related story, Bayan filed a petition to invertvene in the Sigaw ng Bayan’s case before the SC, Sept. 12.

Neri Colmenares, counsel for the intervenors/oppositors, said that Sigaw ng Bayan did not get the required number of votes for a people’s initiative. He also said that the people’s initiative only allows revisions, not amendments, to the Constitution.

Carol Araullo, Bayan chairperson said, “It is clear that Malacañang is behind the people’s initiative. It is not a genuine initiative of the people.” (Bulatlat.com)

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