Benjie Oliveros | Pressure Mounts in Cha-Cha Battle


MANILA — When the Supreme Court junked the petition filed by Oliver Lozano for being premature, it refused to fall into the trap set by the Arroyo’s administration’s allies in Congress. It also rejected the claim of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies that they passed the House Resolution 1109 because they merely wanted the Supreme Court to rule on the supposed constitutional gray area of whether the Senate and House should vote as one or separately in a constituent assembly.

The majority coalition in the Lower House has to act now or all their efforts will be in vain. They can no longer shield themselves from the people’s wrath by making the Supreme Court decide on the matter before they would act. However, they know it will be political suicide to do so, especially since the 2010 elections is just around the corner. They might be forgiven eventually for voting for the passage of HR 1109, but to actually convene a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution to enable Arroyo to run as representative then prime minister would be acting against the people’s interest. This might cause their defeat in the 2010 elections.

The pressure must be mounting on the dishonorable legislators. On one side is the snowballing of resistance against charter change, especially because it means enabling the highly unpopular Arroyo to remain in power to protect her and her family from being charged with plundering the government’s coffers, bribery, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human-rights violations. As the broad opposition to cha-cha has promised, the rally in Makati and several other key cities nationwide on June 10 was just the beginning.

On the other side is Arroyo herself and her clique. The rumored 20-million pesos in pork barrel funds given to those who voted for HR 1109 must have been tempting enough as it means more projects and, therefore, higher visibility for the legislators who would be running for reelection. With the snowballing of resistance against cha-cha, the offers from Arroyo must also be increasing tremendously, especially since time is running fast.

Surely there is more to the rumor that Arroyo will run for representative of Lubao, Pampanga. As the June 19, 2009, Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial pointed out, the immunity of a representative in the Lower House is too puny. It only applies to crimes punishable by six years or less. Look at what happened to progressive partylist representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party collectively called the Batasan 6. The filing of trumped-up charges against them by the Arroyo government caused their detention.

But of course nothing of that sort will happen to Arroyo — she has her allies to depend on. However, nothing can prevent the people from filing cases against her and her family. And the succeeding president, who most probably will come from the opposition, will most likely oblige to consolidate his or her administration. Thus, all this talk about Arroyo running for representative of Pampanga cannot be separated from the moves to amend the 1987 Constitution through a constituent assembly to effect a shift to a parliamentary system of government and remove all obstacles to Arroyo’s continued reign.

Additional pressure is coming from the US, the European Union, and other members of the Foreign Chambers of Commerce, albeit for a different reason. The foreign chambers came out with a position calling for the removal of “constitutional provisions on foreign capital” and for “allowing ownership of land by foreign investors.” Their reasons for calling for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution may be different from that of the Arroyo administration, but their concern is likewise urgent. The world is in a deep recession. Foreign corporations are desperately searching for profitable investments to enable them to weather the crisis, and they are supported by their respective governments in this. One should never underestimate the lobby of big corporations. They were even able to force their respective governments to give them bailout money to mitigate their losses.

It is highly likely that Arroyo’s allies in Congress will yield to the regime and the foreign chambers of commerce. After all, they wield tremendous amounts of money, power, and influence. The only thing that can effectively counter this is for the broad array of sectors opposed to cha-cha to mount huge mobilizations.

The objective must not only be to prevent these legislators from getting reelected — the mobilizations should be of such magnitude as to enable the people not only to counter the pressures from the regime and the foreign chambers of commerce but, more importantly, to effect change and demand for justice. (

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