Malilong: Again and with feeling, to ChaCha or not to ChaCha?

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

There have been several attempts to amend the present Constitution, the first and most serious one happening during the administration of President Fidel Ramos whose term a group called Pirma wanted to be extended by abolishing the provision on term limits.

Happily, the attempt did not succeed because the Supreme Court rejected the method chosen by Pirma to effect their desired Charter Change (ChaCha). There was no sufficient law supporting that method, the High Tribunal declared in the landmark case of Santiago vs. Comelec.

The decision was penned by then Justice Hilario Davide Jr., a Cebuano. The law that Pirma relied upon was “inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution” and “failed to provide sufficient standard for subordinate legislation.”

The law, Republic Act No. 6735, was supposed to give flesh to the constitutional provision that vested in the people the power to directly propose Charter Change through a process called People’s Initiative (PI). To our knowledge, the law has not been “corrected” until now despite the suggestion addressed to Congress by the Supreme Court in the Santiago case.

“We feel, however, that the system of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution should no longer be kept in the cold,” the decision read. “(I)t must be given flesh and blood, energy and strength. Congress should not tarry any longer in complying with the constitutional mandate to provide for the implementation of the right of the people under the system.”

On April 25, 2018, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III filed in the 17th Congress a bill “to fill the gap in RA 6735.” Nothing came out of it.

There are three ways to amend the Constitution: a Constitutional Convention (Concon), a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) and the PI. The Concon is the most independent of vested interests but is expensive to convene. The ConAss does not require much funding but until now both houses of Congress could not agree on whether they should be voting jointly or separately. Then there is the PI, which is admittedly the most democratic, if properly administered.

The House of Representatives favors the PI in their renewed attempt to amend the Constitution after failing to obtain the assent of the Senate to call a Concon. Their Concon resolution, which was passed in March last year, continues to languish in the Senate, according to a CNN report. This is probably because until recently, the Senate has stubbornly opposed Charter Change.

The House initiative is in full swing. Hundreds of thousands signatures have been collected, according to reports, but this accomplishment is marred by charges that voters were paid P100 for their signatures.

The only catch, aside from the Supreme Court declaration of the PI law as inadequate, is the reported disdain of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the signature collecting for being “too divisive,” if we believe Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri. The president instead instructed the Senate, through Zubiri, to take the lead in amending certain economic provisions of the Constitution, still according to him.

Following the president’s instructions, the Senate president promptly filed a proposed “resolution of both houses” introducing the amendments that Mr. Marcos suggested, a move that former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel denounced as a “knee-jerk reaction.”

PI or ConAss? Zubiri revealed that when he and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez met after their meeting with the president, they had a colorful and vigorous discussion” that became “quite heated.” Did they quarrel over whose preferred mode of introducing amendments to the Constitution should prevail?

But wait, is there even a need to ChaCha?


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.