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

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Set rules first re Cha Cha

The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday met to discuss charter change issues.

The House said that Congress should and agree on substantive matters first, such as reviewing the structure of government, basic economic provisions, and transitory provisions before deciding on separate or joint voting.

However, Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws said the Senate stands firm in its position that both Houses must agree on how voting will proceed if the constitution will be amended by both chambers of Congress acting as a constituent assembly.

“We agreed on this during the caucus of the Senate committee prior to the meeting with the House. We even took this up during our committee hearings last January 18 and May 3, wherein resource persons such as Justice Mendoza and Dean Carlota opined that congress must vote separately, in accordance with the Constitution.” Gordon disclosed.

“Congress is bicameral, and we respect our counterparts in the House and their views on what changes need to be made to the constitution. I myself believe that there are provisions in the constitution that we need to reassess. These things must be deliberated upon, when the time is right, so that the people will understand and own the Constitution.” said Gordon.

“Be that as it may, before any discussion and deliberation can begin, we have to agree on the issue of voting. It’s not about wanting to get our own way. It’s about being logical about the process and deciding NOW on an issue which will inevitably arise.” He explained.

The senator also said “let’s say we spend a year, or even just 6 months debating on economic provisions for example. And finally the Senate has its version and the House has its version. At that point Congress has to vote, but no one knows whether we vote separately or jointly.”

“There’s your problem right there, because if there is no agreement on that, charter change will be stalled. In short, it will be necessary to come back and answer the question that we are already asking now. So why put it off?” Gordon noted.

“Let me put in another way. In the same way that basketball players need to know the rules before they play the game, we must know the steps before we dance the cha-cha. Otherwise we’ll be running around in circles, going nowhere.”

According to Gordon “you decide on the rules beforehand so that if conflict comes up later, you know how to decide. You don’t play the game first and make the rules up as you go along. How will you know if a foul is committed, if you don’t define what a foul is in the first place.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Enabling law filed for People's Initiative

After pushing for legislated Charter change, Sen. Richard Gordon filed yesterday Senate Bill 2247, which would provide an enabling law for the people’s initiative as a means of making changes in the Constitution.

In filing the Senate bill, Gordon cited the Supreme Court ruling on the case Santiago filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), declaring that Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act was insufficient for the conduct of a people’s initiative.

"Since no law has been passed yet by Congress, the same situation in Santiago vs Comelec… holds true at present and any attempt to propose amendments to the Constitution via the people’s initiative will only be futile absent an enabling law," he said.

However, Gordon also placed a prohibitive provision which would allow one proposed amendment to the Constitution. "No petition for people’s initiative covering more than one proposed amendment to the Constitution or amounting to a revision of the Constitution shall be allowed," his proposed measure read.

The government’s plan to introduce amendments to the Constitution has been hampered by the Supreme Court ruling, prompting Gordon to file SB 2247. In Section 4, Gordon said the people’s initiative may be exercised by all registered voters in the Philippines.

"A petition for the people’s initiative must have at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters," read SB 2247.

The people’s initiative may be exercised only once every five years, Gordon added. The proposed bill also states that the Comelec shall prescribe the form for a petition for people’s initiative, which includes the provision that petitioners seek to amend; the proposed amendment; the reason for the proposition, not exceeding one thousand words; proof that public hearings and consultations are held in each legislative district to ensure that the people have been properly informed of the proposition; and a statement under oath by a proponent in each legislative district that the petitioners in his or her legislative district, knowingly, freely, and voluntarily supports the proposition and names, addresses and signatures of the petitioners.

Gordon also stated that a petition for people’s initiative filed with the Comelec that violates any provision of this SB 2247 shall be dismissed by the poll body and the proponents of this particular initiative shall be punished with a jail term of one to six years or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P600,000.

The plebiscite shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the Comelec certifies that the petition is sufficient for the people’s initiative.

The budget for this plebiscite shall be charged against the contingent fund in the General Appropriations Act of the current year, according to Gordon’s proposed bill.

Enabling law filed for initiative
By Christina Mendez with Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star 05/23/2006

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Con-Ass like Ordinary Legislation

After agreeing to a dialogue with the House, Senator Richard Gordon’s committee on constitutional amendments held a caucus last Wednesday and took the position that the 1987 Constitution does not provide for a constituent assembly as a mode for charter amendments.

“The consensus is that there is no need for a constituent assembly because the Constitution is very clear that any senator or congressman can (propose to) amend the Constitution or even revise the Constitution by mere resolution, in which case it is treated as any ordinary piece of legislation which can be referred to the standing committee of each house,” Gordon said at a news conference.

“And when it’s approved by three-fourths vote, it becomes a proposed amendment to the Constitution which then is submitted to a plebiscite,” Gordon added.

Gordon said the constituent assembly as a mode for amending the Charter was provided for in the 1935 Constitution but not by the current Charter. The other modes for amending or revising the Charter are through a constitutional convention and people’s initiative.

Massage’ diplomacy: House softens position on Con-Ass http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=76280
By Michael Lim Ubac, Juliet Labog-Javellana
19 May 2006

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The Senate has effectively junked the constituent assembly as a method of amending the Constitution, saying Charter change could be carried out through a mere resolution from either chamber of Congress.

The Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revisions of codes and laws, chaired by Richard Gordon, took this position following a caucus that discussed the forthcoming dialogue between the Senate and the House of Representatives in which the issue of amending the Constitution to shift to a parliamentary form of government was tackled.

According to Gordon, committee members unanimously decided to treat any amendment or revision of the Constitution as an ordinary piece of legislation. Gordon said the agreement was based on the provisions of the Constitution and the rules of the House.

He claimed there is no specific provision in the 1987 Constitution calling for a constituent assembly as a method of amending the Charter. The language outlining a "constituent assembly" was only present in the 1935 Constitution, Gordon said.

Gordon claimed the Constitution is very specific in identifying the circumstances during which the Senate and the House should vote jointly and separately.

He said he would try to set a meeting with Jaraula on Tuesday and start the dialogue on Charter change initiatives. The position of the Senate would then be relayed to Jaraula. According to Gordon, he would ask the House through Jaraula to start submitting its proposed amendments in the form of a resolution if it wants to start the process immediately.

Gordon stressed this process would save the government more money since no new body would have to be created for the purpose.

The Senate has been firm against proposals by the House for a constituent assembly to introduce amendments in the Charter.

Senators contend that a constituent assembly would be seen as self-serving because lawmakers themselves make up the body. They preferred the holding of a constitutional convention which is the less controversial mode of amending the Charter.

Go slow on legislated Cha-cha, Senate urged
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star 05/19/2006

Pinoy conquers Everest

Senator Richard Gordon filed a resolution commending the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition Team for "its unparalleled courage and unwavering determination to be the first Filipinos to scale Mt. Everest."

"Through sheer perseverance and hard work, Heracleo Oracion, with the full support of the Mt. Everest expedition, set the Philippine flag at the apex of the mountain, proving that with focus, hard work and fortitude, Filipinos can make a difference in the world," Senate Resolution 483 cited.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Caucus on Cha Cha

Senator Richard Gordon (second from right), chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Laws and Codes, discusses with (from left) Senators Francis Pangilinan, Juan Flavier, Juan Ponce Enrile and Edgardo Angara the issues on amending the 1987 Constitution during a caucus this afternoon (May 17, 2006). (Photo by: Romeo Bugante, SENATE-PRIB)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On Banning "The Da Vinci Code" Movie in RP

Sen. Richard Gordon warned that if the movie is banned, “the more people will try to see it and it will just land in the piracy market.

For me, it’s simply entertainment and it’s not something that’s going to shatter my faith.”

Senators downplay ‘Da Vinci’ impact
By Patricia Esteves, Reporter

CHA CHA Dialogue

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, and his counterpart at the House, Rep. Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro, agreed to discuss provisions of the Constitution that could stand revisions.

Emerging from a meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council in Malacañan, Gordon told reporters that although the Senate has agreed to discuss the provisions, it has not changed its stand on Charter change and its bid to sustain the Senate as an institution.

"We want people to support [Charter change] because they understand it not because it’s for the good of the mayors, senators or the President alone. We are ready to talk with the House so negative things can be set aside," Gordon said.

Gordon said whether the Congress will adopt a constituent assembly, constitutional convention or people’s initiative as a mode of rewriting the Charter will depend on their dialogue.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the position of 22 of the 23 senators is that the Senate and House vote separately on any constitutional amendment. Drilon said he will leave the issue of a constituent assembly to Gordon’s committee.

Gordon said it was better to dialogue with congressmen on Charter change instead of airing their views in the media.

"For the first time, both the Senate and the House have agreed to talk. Diplomatic relations were established. I respect my counterparts in the House and I think now we can start talking about what we want," Gordon said.

He said it was Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. who proposed the dialogue, although Angara said it was a joint proposal.

Palace brings together senators, congressmen in Cha-cha dialogue
The Manila Times Reporters

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Gordon said that among the issues that the two committees would tackle was the question of “appropriate timing” to hold discussions on the proposal to convene Congress into a constituent assembly “or if we are going to meet as a constituent assembly.”

“After we have gone with the rules, (we can tackle) what are the amendments that we can agree on,” he said.

Asked whether he meant the Senate had now agreed with the House to convene Congress into a constituent assembly, Gordon said: “No, we only agreed to meet as committees to find out what are the things we can agree upon and then move on after that.”

Asked whether the dialogue managed to break the impasse between the Senate and the House regarding Charter change, Gordon said: “It breaks the name calling, the backbiting, and we can start talking again in terms of what we can do and that’s important, that’s a big, big push.”

Senate, House OK dialogue on Charter change
May 17, 2006
By Juliet Labog-Javellana, Christine Avendano
With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and TJ Burgonio

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Lawmakers on both sides agreed to hold dialogues through their committees to set aside differences, find common areas and stop "negative things" coming from either chamber over efforts to amend the Constitution.

"Our (Senate) positions have hardened perhaps with the statements emanating from the House. As far as I’m concerned, we have never closed our minds to constitutional amendments," Gordon said.

Gordon admitted the move for both committees to thresh out issues, particularly on whether both chambers of Congress would be voting separately or jointly in the constituent assembly, was meant to avoid having to bring the matter to the Supreme Court.

He said it would be premature to say the Senate was agreeable to a constituent assembly but he pointed out the constitutional convention (con-con) mode is too expensive while the ongoing people’s initiative is strongly opposed by the Senate.

Gordon said the con-con, while it is the ideal mode, would be more suitable if the Charter were to be completely overhauled. With only a few amendments to be made, he said "you can do it by way of the constituent assembly."

When asked the whether the dialogue would result in senators and congressmen agreeing on which mode of Charter change to use, he said: "That could be, that could be."

Asked to comment on perceptions that the Senate had finally agreed to talk with the House because of the strong response to the people’s initiative, Gordon believes "it’s the House that softened up."

However, he said, unlike the House, the Senate does not consider amending the Constitution an urgent matter.

Both constitutional committee chairmen differ on the "soft issues" to be initially discussed. For Gordon, what is easy to resolve is the timing and the mode of amending the Constitution while the amendments, particularly the change in the form of government, would be very contentious.

Senate, House to resolve differences on con-ass
By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star 05/17/2006
With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Aurea Calica, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Allegations of PHILCOMSAT Anomaly

Vice President of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat) Holdings Corporation (PHC) Enrique Locsin, (left) testifies before the joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises and Public Services chaired by Richard Gordon and Juan Ponce Enrile, respectively that is inquiring on the losses incurred by the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC) and Philcomsat due to alleged anomalous improprieties in operations by their respective board of directors. With Locsin is a representative from the Minority PHC Stockholders Jose Ma. Ozamiz. (Photo by: Albert Calvelo, SENATE-PRIB)

TOURISM BILL Speaks for Tourist's protection and safety

Senator Richard J. Gordon, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, emphasized yesterday that Senate Bill 2138 otherwise known as Tourism Bill Act 2006 will provide protection and safety to the millions of local and foreign tourists in the country assuring them of fair and quality service.

Gordon said the tourism bill will guarantee protection needed by the thousands of tourists who have been charged exorbitant rates, ripped off by taxis, buses, and public transport, by substandard accommodations and fly by-night agencies and operators.

“This bill is about the many ordinary tourists both local and foreign who have been victimized and were unprotected by the lack of proper standards. This is not about Manila or Pasay, or any particular city or municipality. LGUs that use their powers to regulate and license responsibly should have nothing to fear,” he explained.

He insisted that SB 2138 will uplift the standard of service of tourism for every corner of the Philippines-not just the urbanized areas of the country- so that tourists can feel safe and be assured of quality service from simple courtesies to reliable travel information, to clean toilets and sheets, to travel and tour operators and guides who can really speak well about the country.

“Who speaks for the tourists? Who is looking out for them? Do you want to go to a disco like Ozone, or get on a taxi cab at the airport that doesn’t use its meter or takes you for an unwanted tour of Metro Manila, or to a Hotel that does not even have a fire escape or fire sprinklers? The Department of Tourism (DOT) must help the tourist know what’s out there by grading establishments, ensuring quality and safety, and working with the LGUs to enforce those grades and standards,” said Gordon. “This is why the bill requires tourism enterprises to undergo accreditation with DOT.”

Gordon also divulged that tourism bill, which is debated on the floor for second reading, will encourage the industry to seek excellence, creating a distinction of quality and merit for the Philippines, definitely increasing the quality and quantity of visitors when enacted into law.

10 May 2006

‘GOOD SAMARITANS’ to answer food shortage

Senator Richard Gordon pronounced today that the increase of hunger proportion rates in the country can be curtailed as he called on for the donation of unused food from hotels, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and other businesses for distribution to less fortunate citizens who cannot provide for their basic food requirements.

Gordon said it is about time that private individuals and institutions be actively involved in the government’s drive to reduce food shortage and malnutrition and not just be “mere spectators and sympathizers of impoverishment.”

“Tons of edible and unused food is wasted in dining establishments and markets. It is a shame that we don’t utilize these resources and turn them into something palatable for the others,” exclaimed Gordon.

The senator disclosed that while there are willing prospective food volunteers and donors and while “Charitable and Other Contributions” is already an allowable deduction from gross income in the computation of income tax as provided in Sec. 34 (H) of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, the contributors are still sometimes hesitant to offer help because of possible strict legal liability of such actions.

Gordon said that through Senate Bill 1710 which he filed, concerns on the legal liability of food donations for charitable purposes will be addressed. The bill, also known as the “Food Donation Act”, aims to encourage the collection and donation of surplus food to needy people for charitable purposes.

The said bill provides for the collection of raw, cooked, processed, or prepared food or grocery products that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by law and for its distribution to non-profit organizations who cater to needy individuals.

“There are unused food produce that are very much edible which meets the quality standards of law but are not marketable due to appearance or size or grade. We should have a look at all these products and develop their potential to be the answer to our long-time problem of food shortage,” said Gordon.

According to Gordon, the National Statistical Coordination Board reported that more than 16 million Filipinos are estimated to be below the food and subsistence threshold as of the year 2000. He emphasized that “the figures are very alarming” as he also cited the latest report of the Social Weather Stations polling agency of a rise to 15% in August this year of Filipinos experiencing hunger.

Gordon said that “we cannot deny the country’s food shortage dilemma, however, what we should do is not to fix the blame but to fix the problem.”

Gordon, who is also Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, added that collected food can also be distributed and stored in various frequently typhoon stricken provinces and become ready for dissemination during disasters. He added that relief operations during calamities have been a long time problem of the country but “we still have not addressed it accordingly.”

Members of the Christian Lawyers Association of the Philippines have expressed their strong support for the Food Donation Act bill and vowed to lobby for its immediate passage.

8 May 2006

CHA CHA Hearing

Former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza (left) and UP College of Law Dean Salvador Carlota (second from left) explain to senators legal matters surrounding the efforts of pro-charter change advocates to gather signatures for a “bogus” People’s Initiative during a Senate hearing of the Joint Committees on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon(right) and Local Government. Also at the hearing was Senator Juan Ponce Enrile (third from left). (Photo by Romeo Bugante, Senate/PRIB)