April 18, 2024

At the outset, let us discuss the modes of changing the Constitution or charter change (cha-cha) before bringing our feet to the floor of discussion and dance the “cha-cha”.
There are three kinds of orchestras which play the beat of the cha-cha: constitutional convention (con-con), convening Congress as a constituent assembly (con-ass), or through people’s initiative (PI).
Our constitution states: “Any amendment to, or revision of this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members, or (2) a constitutional convention.” The first mode is what is known as con-ass and the second, con-con.
The Constitution goes on to provide that, “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least 12 percentum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by three per centum of the registered voters therein….” This is the PI.
In all these modes, the proposed amendments must be ratified by the people in a plebiscite called for the purpose.
It appears that our legislators are bent on changing the 1987 Constitution, although there seems to be no urgency on the need, as many hungry constituents observe that the cause of their hunger must first be addressed.
Perhaps, the restrictive economic provisions that may no longer be attuned to present economic realities need to be examined. In this case, Congress should be given enough flexibility to introduce amendments such that economic policies can adapt to contemporary settings. That the very detailed economic provisions of the present constitution were enacted and passed after Martial Law and during the Cory government was a zealous act of the framers of the constitution to assure that our economy shall not fall in the hands of foreign corporations or persons which may be dummies of a dictator is understandable. But times have changed, although people observed that the political climate has brought back the Marcos children and relatives to the scene.
Any attempt to change the 1987 Constitution is viewed with suspicion. Note that, except for the former President Corazon Aquino and her son, former President Benigno Aquino III, all the presidents after Martial Law have attempted to amend the Constitution and failed.
But as to the present cha-cha proposal, it appears that it continues to pre-occupy our legislators’ agenda more vigorously than addressing the present needs of the people that have been reeling from the effects of inflation and the government not acting on the increase in the minimum wage, the PUV controversy, poverty alleviation, etc.
Now, the focus of inquiry by the Senate is the supposed attempt by the House of Representatives led by the cousin of Marcos, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, to initiate cha-cha through the PI.
Signature campaigns for a PI as cha-cha mode were conducted and may still be ongoing. It appears that the signatories were promised “ayuda” or payola, once they affixed their signatures to a petition that they may not even understand.
Now the alleged backer of the PI for cha-cha showed up in the Senate inquiry. Whatever his testimony, it is obvious that the PI for charter change emanated from the House of Representatives as charged by Sen. Imee Marcos. The group PIRMA, which is behind the cha-cha signatures through PI, has been inexistent for the last 20 years.
Initially, those who testified stated that they could not reveal the name or names of those who initiated the move for PI until they were reminded that they cannot hide behind the cloak of anonymity because it is contrary to the very nature of a PI where the people in favor of the method must be known and counted for.
Aside from the “anomalous” act of the House of Representatives to be behind the PI for cha-cha is their very obvious desire to inject political provisions in the cha-cha or even change our form of government to a parliamentary system. So, no more congressmen or senators.
This present squabble in Congress between the Senate and the House will again highlight the lack of inter-parliamentary courtesy between them and which is observed to be symptomatic of the deteriorating quality of leadership in our country.
In the past, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House would sit down, discuss, and find ways to resolve contentious bills or resolutions in conflict with each other. If not, the President would step in to resolve any issue.
It is only wishful thinking to hope that statesmanship returns to the Halls of Congress.