Bayan - Bikol holds noise barrage protest vs Cha-cha


Legazpi City


August 22, 2008



Noise barrage protest against Cha-cha in front of the Albay Provincial Capitol
Teresa Lopez, Bayan-Bikol spokesperson   Fred Mansos, Bayan-Albay

Photos courtesy of Bayan - Bikol


Clever girl!

August 15th, 2008

The plan for constitutional amendments has been compared to a dance, which among metaphor-conscious Filipinos followed naturally from the use of “cha cha” as shorthand for it. Cha cha DIs have indeed been trying to lure everyone onto the dance floor through various inducements, among them the promise of relief from poverty, which they claim’s the result of a perennial gridlock between the President and Congress. But most Filipinos won’t dance, and it’s not so much because they think federalism and a parliamentary form of government won’t work. It’s because they doubt the motives of their champions.

Before July the result had been a dance floor littered with DIs dancing with themselves, while most of the would-be instructees have left the building. But if you think the dance hall owners and the DIs had packed up and gone out of business, think again. Despite a less than lukewarm public reception, they’ve persisted all these years. They’ve carried the campaign to schools and universities, to business groups and academia, to civil society and the media, where at least the issue has somehow remained alive, if not well and kicking.

But their persistence seems about to pay off, this time driven by the need for lasting peace in Mindanao, which these days has replaced world peace in the ambitions of local beauty pageant contestants. The Arroyo regime says that hope is about to be a reality — provided an autonomous Bangsamoro state, currently bearing the innocuous title of Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), is created within a federal system. The current Philippine state being presidential and unitary, such a system has to be put in place through constitutional amendments.

The lawyers — at least most of them — say there’s nothing wrong with amending the constitution to accommodate such changes, provided they’re sanctioned by the citizenry through a plebiscite. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front mandates such a plebiscite. So that at least is settled.

Meanwhile, advocacy of federalism and the parliamentary system — the key components of the Constitutional amendments that are being proposed and that would make room for the BJE — has centered on the decentralization of powers both would supposedly enhance, and on their supposedly being more flexible and development friendly than the present unitary, presidential system.

The advocates of these changes and others mentioned in the past, as well as those likely to surface only when the proposed constituent assembly is in place, are not necessarily moved by the same motives. Despite mass cynicism over the intentions of politicians and even those academics arguing for amendments, there’s nevertheless the likelihood that some are moved by a sincere and patriotic desire for change through an amended constitution. On the other hand, it isn’t just a possibility but a proven fact that others are on the same bandwagon to further their selfish interests.


The main suspect is — who else? — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was convinced of the “need” for amendments in the aftermath of the scandal over the 2004 elections, and who would be among the beneficiaries of a shift to a parliamentary form of government through either a term extension beyond 2010, or a subsequent opportunity to run as MP (Member of Parliament) and to be elected President or Prime Minister by her own party members, who would most certainly dominate the contemplated Parliament.

As if the prospect of a prolonged reign by the most unpopular president the country has ever had, and of her cohort in Congress (morphed into MPs) were not dismal enough, charter change is not likely to end with the creation of a federal system and a parliamentary form of government.

The most likely vehicle of constitutional amendments is through a constituent assembly of Congress, as called for in Aquilino Pimentel’s Senate Resolution No. 10, which would most certainly result in its members’ guarding and enhancing their interests via whatever amendments they’ll propose.

Whatever the vehicle, the amendments proposed will almost certainly include changes in the Bill of Rights (among the proposals: amending Article III Section 4 to read “No law shall be passed abridging the responsible exercise of the freedom of speech…”), in those provisions that protect the country’s natural resources and mass media from foreign ownership, and those that make the declaration of martial law — and therefore the imposition of dictatorship — more difficult than it was under the 1936 and 1973 Constitutions. But don’t think that’s all — the politicians will come up with other horrors most people are too naive to anticipate.

Under existing conditions, constitutional amendments would result in everyone’s — the politicians first and those foreign interests eager to get their claws on this country’s resources second — except the Filipino people’s getting their fondest wishes.

Cha cha isn’t a dance; it’s a ploy similar to that of the raptor’s which, in the film Jurassic Park, distracted a hunter long enough to tear him to shreds. As the hunter exclaimed before razor-sharp teeth silenced him forever: “Clever girl!”





The sudden rush by the Committee on Constitutional Amendments of the House of Representatives to pass resolutions proposing charter change is an ominous sign of Pres. Gloria Arroyo’S hand in pushing for constitutional amendments before 2010. The Committee’s approval of the motion that the committee will immediately and directly vote on August 26 to decide on the mode for amending the Constitution is abhorrent considering that the Committee has not even decided what specific amendments are really necessary and should be undertaken. Deciding on the mode of amending the Constitution without knowing how many and which provisions will be amended, coming at the heels of the presidential announcement supporting charter change, is nothing more than a signal that the president’s allies in the Congress are ready to change the Constitution despite objections and protest by the people. Voting on the mode to amend the Constitution is nothing more than an admission that Congress has already decided to change the Constitution.

Sudden Change of Pace and Positions

Many of the Bills in the House of Representatives, notably HB 3149 filed by Abraham Mitra, HB 3473 by Rep. Carmelo Lazatin, House Concurrent Resolution 17 and HB 4076 by Rep. Victor Ortega, propose the calling of a Constitutional Convention and not a constituent assembly. Another bill filed by Rep. Roque Ablan called for a “peoples initiative” although he later withdrew it and shifted to constituent assembly. Strangely, despite the large number of proponents for constitutional convention, sixty-two members of the House surveyed by the Committee on Constitutional Amendments suddenly favored a ‘constituent assembly’ as against only forty nine in favor of constitutional convention. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of House members surveyed want to change the Constitution before 2010 while only 20% want it amended after 2010 despite the fact that all Bills proposing a Constitutional Convention proposed that changes in the Constitution will take place after 2010, which surely means that the survey does not reflect the original position of many members of the House. This latest swing in the opinion of House members, coming at the heels of Pres. Arroyos suddenly resurrected open support for charter change, only shows the President’s determination to ram her proposed “chacha” before the 2010 elections. Congress should publish the names of all the Representatives who voted in the survey so that their respective constituencies will be informed of the shifting positions of their supposed representatives.

Complicated issues set aside

The bills propose many amendments which the Committee should first reject before any decision on the mode should be taken, because they are reprehensible. The proposal of HR 550 proposing the extension of term of Pres. Arroyo and all other elective officials to June 30, 2011 and the expansion of the term of congressmen to 4 years are unacceptable and self serving. The proposals of HR 14 crippling the Supreme Court by taking away its judicial power to intervene in cases of grave abuse of discretion under Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution must be resisted especially in these times of presidential abuse of power. The creation of “states” such the State of Southern Tagalog with Tagaytay as capital, the State of Western Visayas with Iloilo as capital while dividing the entire Mindanao to Northern Mindanao with Cagayan de Oro as Capital and Southern Mindanao with Davao City as capital are all complicated issues that the Committee and Congress have to discuss with public participation in public hearings. The Congress cannot vote on what mode to use unless the issue of whether or not there is indeed a need to amend the constitution is resolved.



Constituent Assembly: A powerful body that can extend terms

It is expected that Congress will choose the self-serving mode of constituent assembly since it gives the very members who want to change the Constitution the power to draft the specific amendments. Assurances that the Constituent Assembly will not be “authorized” to extend the term of Pres. Arroyo are not only misleading but a barefaced lie. The Constituent Assembly, once constituted is a different constitutional entity from Congress and is therefore not bound by any congressional resolution. The Constituent Assembly, because it has the power to amend the Constitution, can even abolish Congress and is, therefore, not subservient to it. It is clear from Section 1, Article IX that the constituent assembly is empowered to “amend and revise” the Constitution. This means that it can amend or overhaul the Charter (revise, as defined by the 1987 Constitutional Commission) and is, therefore, logically empowered to extend the term of Pres. Arroyo or allow her to run again in 2010.

The nuance provided by certain members of the House that the amendment, using Section 140 of the Rules of the House, will strictly ensure that the President’s extension will not be an issue is either merely deceiving the people or politically naïve. Section 140, Rule XX of the House of Representatives provide for proposals to amend or revise the Constitution, to wit:
“Sec. 140 Form of Proposals and Procedure for Adoption. Proposals to amend or revise the Constitution shall be by resolution which may be filed at any time by any Member. The adoption of resolutions proposing amendments to, or revision of, the Constitution shall follow the procedure for the enactment of bills.”

Firstly, if this procedure is correct, there is no stopping any member of Congress from proposing amendments to a Resolution being tackled in the plenary in the same manner that proposed bills are also amended once they are submitted to the plenary on second and even third reading. Pres. Arroyo’ majority in the House of Representatives can therefore approve an insertion extending the term of the president and there is nothing that the minority can do about it.
Secondly, there will be a powerful bicameral committee that will decide over the said resolution and insert provisions that will allow Pres. Arroyo to run in the 2010 election. The overwhelming numbers of Pres. Arroyo in the House will ensure that such an ‘insertion’ will be approved in the same manner that bicameral committees in the past have inserted alien provisions in bills approved by both Houses of Congress. It is foolhardy, therefore, even for opposition members, to support moves to amend the charter now. The minority will never have the numbers to resist the juggernaut that Pres. Arroyo will unleash just to stay in power beyond 2010.

Members of the House are therefore warned from joining the bandwagon being generated by Malacanang for charter change. Charter change that will perpetuate Pres. Arroyo’s power and eliminate the protectionist economic policies in the Constitution could result in a violent upheaval in the country. The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Congress should, instead of rushing the process, conduct consultations with the people especially in the light of the known and admitted resistance of the people to charter change. To ram charter change down the throats of the people is to invite violent reactions that will only further exacerbate the political and economic crisis plaguing the country today.

Date: August 15, 2008
Reference: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares - 09178350459
Secretary – General