February 22, 2024

As moves have again been initiated to amend the 1987 Constitution this time via people’s initiative, we would like to remind the public to be discerning and participate in the process not only by automatically affixing their signature but to also inquire first about the initiative.
A people’s initiative is one of the three processes in amending the constitution. In a democratic society such as the Philippines, this process recognizes that the supreme power is held by the public. Perhaps, this could be why there are groups that resurrected moves to amend the over three-decade old Constitution.
To those who may have been approached to sign, participate by asking questions such as who or what initiated the gathering of signatures? Why should the Constitution be amended? What provision of the Constitution needs to be amended? What is in it for us, ordinary citizens and the Philippines in general? What are the long-term benefits if the Constitution were amended?
It is not enough that those gathering signatures give a brief explanation of the document. They should have a deep knowledge and understanding of the process and even of the Constitution itself so that they could fully explain to the public, where majority might not even be familiar with its contents save for the basic ones taught in high school and college.
If the answers are ambiguous or those that leave more questions than answers, these should be considered red flags.
From what we are hearing from the ground, some of those tasked to gather signatures are not well-versed of the contents of the documents, as they are just after being compensated after a day of work.
Delay or do not sign and do your own research. There is a wealth of information about constitutional change in libraries and over the Internet. If possible, do not hesitate to ask those who know about the constitution, then share what you have learned. This way, we help educate one another. A public that is properly educated could even suggest what need to be changed, without having to resort to political patronage – this is what a government by the people is all about.
As Commission on Elections Chair George Erwin Garcia said, signing should be voluntary and with full understanding of its implications.
If the signing was only due to promises of aid or donations, then it is not only a disservice to yourself, you have also sacrificed the generations after you.
A politically-motivated initiative, while it may have good intentions, might fail if the public later on changes its mind especially when crucial provisions have not been fully explained and understood.
To those making moves to amend the 1987 Constitution, we also suggest that they organize town hall meetings and other fora to further educate the public rather than rely on a simple signature campaign.
This may not guarantee success in terms of having the constitution amended but it will be able to heighten public awareness and increase public participation in governance. That, in essence strengthens democracy and our institutions.