President Arroyo is silently endorsing Charter change (Cha-cha) with her refusal to personally make a public statement that she will step down in Malacañang in June 2010.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay yesterday noted that despite the Palace’s claim that the President has not certified Cha-cha as a priority for the House of Representatives to tackle when it resumes session next month, not putting an end to the matter has encouraged majority of congressmen to push amendments in the Constitution, that of convening Congress into a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) without the approval of the Senate.
“Time is not on the side of the pro-Cha-cha congressmen but still they are optimistic that they can meet their objective. Mrs. Arroyo is feeding their optimism by not publicly disavowing any plan to stay in power beyond 2010,” Binay, also the United Opposition president, said.
It was reported that pro-Cha-cha lawmakers are only 20 votes short of approving a resolution convening Congress into a Con-ass.
“We have said time and again, Mrs. Arroyo will continue to look for ways to prolong her stay in power beyond 2010. Charter change is only one option for her,” he stressed.
Binay said only Mrs. Arroyo can stop pro–administration congressmen from pushing through with Cha-cha.
“But the trouble is she won’t even lift a finger to stop the pro-Cha-cha solons, giving credence to public perception that she intends to cling to power beyond 2010,” he added.
The opposition leader reiterated his call for Mrs. Arroyo to issue a statement that she will leave Malacañang in 2010 to stop the confusion caused by Cha-cha.
Binay said the attempt is sure to fuel political unrest at a time when millions of Filipinos are losing jobs and feeling the impact of the economic crisis.
According to Pulse Asia survey which was released also yesterday, around four in 10 Filipinos (42 percent) are not in favor of amending the Constitution now while 33 percent are supportive of such a move. Twenty-five percent are undecided.
“Almost two out of every three Filipinos (64 percent) are of the view that it is not appropriate to have Charter change at the present time – a view shared by majorities (60 to 70 percenty) in all geographic areas and socio-economic groupings. On the other hand, 25 percent of Filipinos express a contrary opinion while 11 percentare undecided on the matter,” it stressed.
Those who do not think it is appropriate to amend the 1987 Constitution now, however, are divided almost equally between those who are opposed to Charter change now but are open to it at sometime in the future (34 percent) and those against charter change at any time (30 percent), the pollster added.
Pulse Asia said economic improvement is the top reason cited by those favoring Cha-cha, while those opposed to amending the Constitution think it is good enough and would like to avoid any chaos that may arise from changing the country’s supreme law.
Another often-mentioned reason is that charter change would help eradicate corruption in the country, it added.
Administration congressmen, for their part, were on the defensive yesterday even as they tried to sweep allegations under the rug that the two presidential sons, both members of the House, are leading efforts to change the Constitution.
According to House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, the allegations are baseless.
Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona, however, said Mrs. Arroyo, if she is not involved in Charter change moves, should tell her sons to keep off the moves.
Guingona stressed Mrs. Arroyo is going to be the primary beneficiary of the Charter change moves.
Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan, another Arroyo ally, said critics should stop dragging the presidential sons into the Cha-cha issue because Mikey Arroyo already made the stand that he favors Cha-cha but this should be done after the 2010 elections.
Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco said no one, not even the Palace and the presidential sons, can dictate on the congressmen what to do.
Sources in the House have confirmed the reports that both Mikey and Dato Arroyo and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez have been working doubly hard in convincing their colleagues to sign and support the proposal of Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte.
Speaker Prospero Nograles acknowledged the lack of time to amend the 1987 Constitution, but stressed the House is not dropping Cha-cha from its agenda.
“Time is not on our side, although we are not giving up on Charter change, especially on the economic provision(s),” said Nograles in a text message.
Nograles’ resolution is up for plenary debate when Congress resumes session on April 13.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde noted that the 2010 elections will push through as the President recently signed the supplemental budget for the automation of the polls.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also yesterday threatened House members that they will be hauled to court if they will insist on tinkering with the 1987 Constitution before next year’s presidential elections and convene themselves into a Con-Ass.
“If they will disregard us, I will go to the Supreme Court and take them there….they will lose. They will lose if they do it alone,” the Senate chief said before reporters in an interview, even as he belittled the significance of Cha-cha proponents in the House mustering needed votes anytime soon.
Should congressmen manage to secure the needed signatures, it would not suffice to effect Cha-cha because they will have to transmit it to the Senate which is strongly against their proposition, he added.
Enrile said while there are some colleagues in the upper chamber who may be amenable to the idea, this is not enough security for Cha-cha proponents as far as their approval is concerned. Gerry Baldo, Charlie V. Manalo, Angie M. Rosales, Jason Faustino, Riza Recio and PNA