Wayward Cha-cha train

Published by rudy Date posted on April 24, 2009

The current happenings in Congress rekindle more intensely the lingering doubt about the usefulness and necessity of having a bicameral legislative body or of having a legislative body at all. Filipinos are again wondering why billions of pesos of their money are being wasted on such a Legislature that has not alleviated poverty in the land or improve their lives through the years.

The financial turmoil all over the world should have spurred our honorable legislators to draw up emergency measures cushioning its adverse impact on our people. Yet there they are bickering on how to change the Charter (Cha-cha) in the Lower House and playing non-stop politics in the Senate.

The allies of Malacañang in the Lower House know fully well that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos do not want to Cha-cha at this time. They also know that there is no more time to Cha-cha before the 2010 elections. Yet they are still pushing for the Cha-cha under these circumstances. This kind of arrogance and obstinacy all the more fuel the people’s fears of Cha-cha and “No-el” (no elections) in 2010.

Malacañang’s non-interference on the Cha-cha issue under the pretext that “it is busy with other matters needed by the people at this time” is the best example of political song and dance act practiced since the birth of this Republic. What it is openly saying is exactly the opposite of what it is secretly doing. Not meddling on the Cha-cha issue is the most convincing sign that this administration wants to Cha-cha. This is the clearest go-ahead signal to the Lower House coming from the very source of the move.

The President herself has not made any official announcement that the charter should not be changed before her term ends. It is only the Palace boys who have made repeated announcements on the issue. And their announcements do not categorically state that the President is against the Cha-cha move in the Lower House. They only deny that the President is behind such move to Cha-cha and assure that there will be elections in 2010 as mandated by the Constitution. But the Palace lackeys in the Lower House including the two Presidential sons are doing exactly the opposite of said announcements. They are steering the Cha-cha train at full speed. That train will surely ground to a halt once the President tells her Congress allies to stop it. Why is she not doing so?

The Cha-cha train in the Lower House is loaded with two resolutions: Resolution 737 seeking to amend Article XII Section 2 of the Charter to allow full foreign participation in the exploitation of natural resources and foreign ownership of agricultural land authored by its Speaker Prospero Nograles; and the latest Resolution 1109 seeking to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly to propose constitutional amendments which is already signed by 175 Congressmen allies of the President with Speaker Prospero Nograles and majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor as lead signatories, although it is actually a handiwork of Congressman Villafuerte, the president of GMA’s Kampi Party.

Resolutions 737 and 1109 contain novel and controversial ideas that appear to be constitutional aberrations calling for the exercise of the power of judicial review by the Supreme Court (SC).

Under Article XVII Sections 1-3, there are three steps in amending the charter: first is the proposal of the amendments; second is the submission of the amendments to the people; and third ratification of the amendments by the people in a plebiscite. The amendments may be proposed either by: (1) Congress convened as a constituent assembly by three-fourths vote of all its members (2) a Constitutional Convention called either by 2/3 vote of all members of Congress or when a majority vote of all its Members decide to submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention, or (3) people’s initiative pursuant to R.A. 6735.

Resolution 737 which seeks to amend particular economic provisions of the charter will not go through this route. It will just pass through the legislative mill just like any other bill. In other words Congress will approve the amendment not as a constituent assembly but as a legislative body. This is a novelty indeed that brazenly disregards the process of constitutional amendment.

Resolution 1109 on the other hand seeks to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly to propose Constitutional amendments by three-fourths vote, all coming from the House of Representatives. So if 196 Congressmen vote to convene as a Constituent assembly they can already propose constitutional amendments without the concurrence of a single Senator. This is apparently in violation of Section 1 Article XVII which is understood to mean three-fourths vote of the Senate and three-fourths vote of the House of Representatives.

The big picture emerging is that Resolution 1109 will be passed as soon as the House of Representatives muster at least 196 votes. Then the constitutional amendment proposed in Resolution 737 will be tackled by this “Assembly” which can also take up other proposals amending the charter like the system of government (presidential or parliamentary) that may entail the cancellation or postponement of the 2010 elections.

The Congressmen lackeys of Malacañang can brazenly proceed with these abnormal and controversial moves because they would like to bring the issues to the SC which they confidently expect to affirm their novel albeit distorted ideas simply because most of the Justices there are already Malacañang appointees. This is the reason why the Palace is not meddling on the Cha-cha issue and why the President is not doing anything to stop the wayward Cha-cha train.–Jose C. Sison, Philippine Star

E-mail: jcson@pldtdsl.net

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