"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Sunday, April 16, 2006

People's Initiative is a grand deception

Sen. Richard Gordon said there is a need to educate the public on the moves to change the Constitution.

Gordon said the provision in the initiative proposal for a shift from a bicameral congress to a unicameral parliament "is too vague to be understood by the people" so there is a need to intensify the information drive for Charter change.

"When the parliamentary system is in place, they would no longer have the right to directly vote for the most important official of the land, namely, the prime minister who will be in charge of government," Gordon said in a statement.

With the ways things are going between the executive and the legislative branches of government, the Senate feels it will be abolished once a unicameral parliament is created.

In a parliamentary system, Gordon said, the President is only a ceremonial official, fit for cutting ribbons and reading speeches prepared by the prime minister. The real executive will be the PM who will be elected by the members of the unicameral congress, the senator added.

For the government’s failure to educate the public on the issue, Gordon branded as a "grand deception" the administration-sponsored move because it "concealed many things from the people," including the need for the proposed constitutional amendments to be put through a plebiscite.

"This is all part of a grand deception. There are several issues that the proponents of Charter change via people’s initiative are concealing from the people," said Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.

Gordon also asked where the budget for such activities will be taken from once the people’s initiative succeeds and a plebiscite is held: "Where will the money come from? How much money is being appropriated for the plebiscite? Will there be enough time for the proponents and the opponents of the proposal to discuss the issue to the public so that they will understand and would be able to vote intelligently on the proposal? Or will the measure be just rammed down the throat of a bewildered Filipino people?"

He said the proponents of charter change need to convince the people that there is an urgent need to amend the Constitution and what amendments to introduce.

"First, is the public aware that in a parliamentary system, the people will lose their right to directly vote for their leader? That is what will happen if we revise Article 6 and 7 of the Constitution and shift to a parliamentary system, and I doubt if the people were enlightened on this point," Gordon said.

He added that amending Articles 6 and 7 of the Charter constitutes a revision — not a mere amendment of the constitution — which is clearly outside the parameters of a people’s initiative.

"The very process for revising the constitution — as put forward by proponents of a people’s initiative — is not just flawed but unconstitutional," Gordon said. He added that even the use of barangay assemblies as a venue for the people’s initiative signature campaign is not valid.

"Under our Local Government Code, the barangay assembly is limited to deciding "on the adoption of initiative as a legal process whereby the registered voters of the barangay may directly propose, enact or amend any ordinance." A people’s initiative with respect to constitutional amendments is not covered, he said.

Gordon added that any constitutional amendments must first be submitted to the people in a plebiscite, which will be under Comelec watch, "but if the Comelec is distrusted by the people because of its perceived failure to prevent massive electoral fraud in the past, how can we have a reliable plebiscite?"

"The integrity and credibility of the Comelec and its ability to give us clean, honest and fair elections must be addressed before we can even begin talking about Charter change," he said.

By Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star 04/13/2006
With Christina Mendez