GMA’s silent, sinister, illicit and unconstitutional people’s initiative is on the move

March 23, 2006 at 2:57 pm 1 comment

A silent, sinister, illegal and unconstitutional people’s initiative is on the move. It is organized by Malacanang through the Department of Interior and Local Government and the government foisted various perks – including term extension and the IRA – on local government officials to get their support.

On March 10, 2006, the Department of Interior and Local Government issued Memorandum Circular No. 2006-25 to direct local government officials to conduct baranggay assemblies on March 25, 2006 and October 21, 2006. Such assemblies will be used to gather signatures of at least 55% of registered voters in all baranggays who support the revision of the constitution.

Along with the directive, the DILG also distributed to local government officials the following:

  • A memorandum from DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales to Speaker Jose De Venecia dated January 24, 2006, stating that it is legal for officers and members of the civil service and public officials to campaign for charter change
  • An instruction to verify the signatures gathered vis-à-vis the list of registered voters
  • A matrix explaining the differences between parliamentary and presidential forms of government
  • A sample format of the form for people’s initiative, which includes the proposition for charter change
  • A list of baranggays per municipality, with the total number of registered voters and the corresponding minimum percentage of voters that the signature campaign must obtain
  • A draft COMELEC petition proposing amendments to the 1987 constitution through a people’s initiative

That this is being done surreptitiously, in careful details, and with blatant use of government resources and machinery reveals the desperation and bankruptcy of GMA administration’s charter change agenda. It proves once again that faced with a daunting opposition to the cha-cha in the Senate, the government is willing to mangle the law and contort the constitution in order to push their agenda. What makes this mad rush to amend the constitution worse is that the entire exercise is meant not only to galvanize the political survival of the current President but more alarmingly, it seeks to preserve traditional politics and elitism in the ‘new’ political system.

The ongoing people’s initiative is unconstitutional. While Article XVII, Sec. 2 of the 1987 Constitution states that the charter may be changed through a people’s initiative, it makes a strict and clear delineation between amending the constitution and revising it. Under the existing constitution, a people’s initiative cannot possibly revise the constitution, which is precisely what the administration is peddling nowadays. The proposal to shift to a parliamentary form of government is a revision of the constitution: it seeks to overhaul of the structure of the government and discard the principle of separation of powers, a fundamental pillar of the 1987 constitution.

It is likewise illegal. By using the machinery of the government, the DILG in particular, the instigators of the ongoing people’s initiative is violating the Local Government Code, which proscribes members and officials of the civil service and public officials in general from campaigning on partisan issues. Furthermore, the people’s initiative practically has no enabling law. The PIRMA law of 1989 was deemed insufficient by the Supreme Court to enable and regulate the conduct any people’s initiative.

The government’s cha-cha proposals will reverse democratic gains and will perpetuate patronage politics and elitism. As it is, Malacanang’s proposed amendments are already dangerous. Its transitory provisions state that there won’t be any elections next year and it is dangerously silent on when the next elections would be, giving the next Parliament a chance to perpetuate itself in power. Furthermore, amending the constitution should be a broad and democratic national project. At the exclusion of thorough, open and participatory debates to change the charter, the national government dangled perks like the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) and term extension to convert local government structures into a massive Cha-cha machinery.

Lastly, we believe that the whole cha-cha exercise is meant to bury forever the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy. In the transitory provisions, the incumbent President has the power to select the Interim Prime Minister. Members of the cabinet, as well as the incumbent Vice-President, will also become automatic members of the Interim Parliament. The retention of the influence of the President means that the next government will be comprised of her supporters. This will effectively bury forever and entirely the unresolved allegations that the President cheated her way to the Presidency.

LABAN NG MASA sa KONGRESO
Members: AKBAYAN Representatives Etta Rosales, Mayong Aguja, and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel; Anak Mindanao Representative Mujiv Hataman; and Partido Manggagawa Representative Renato Magtubo

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Entry filed under: Charter Change, Press Kit, Statements.

JDV dared to step down GMA dared to debate with Cha-cha opponents

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. peterlavina  |  March 27, 2006 at 7:34 am

    Kudos to risa and staff.

    Reply

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