“STEP back or get run over.”

These were the words of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in a speech she delivered last March. It was an ominous warning to politicians seeking to block the people’s initiative that would allow for the shift to a parliamentary form of government. “The train has already left the station,” Arroyo said back then, and insisted that the administration will succeed in amending the Constitution either through a people’s initiative, a constituent assembly, or a constitutional convention.

And now that the Supreme Court has denied with finality the people’s initiative petition, Arroyo and her allies in the House of Representatives are engaging in what Senator Richard Gordon calls “ludicrous” tactics to ensure that a new Constitution would be in place in two weeks.

Starting this Monday, the House majority will be pushing for the approval of two items.

The first one is the resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly. (See the proposed Rules of the Constituent Assembly below.) This will be accomplished by approving a move to suspend Section 105 of House Rule 15, which prescribes that Charter change proposals, like all other legislative measures, must go through the normal legislative process, requiring the participation of the two chambers of Congress.

Once this is achieved, the majority will move to approve a two-page “simplified” version of constitutional amendments which will be presented in the plebiscite to be held in February 2007. This latest version or the so-called “package of amendments,” drafted by the 10-member technical working group, has just been finalized and will be up for debates next week. (Read the full text of the “simplified proposals” together with the new transitory provisions below.)

The main points of the proposed amendments include the postponement of the May 10, 2007 elections, the creation of an interim Parliament which will be composed of the current members of Congress, the holding of elections for the next interim Parliament on November 30, 2007, and the full shift to a unicameral parliamentary system of government by 2010.

The transitory provisions in the new version further state that the first interim Parliament will be in place after the ratification of the new Constitution, while the second interim Parliament will be composed of officials to be elected on November and whose terms will expire on June 2010. Senators elected in 2001, whose terms will end in 2005, will have to run in the November elections. The 12 senators elected in 2004, meanwhile, will be automatic members of Parliament until their terms expire on 2010.

Partido ng Manggagawa Rep. Renato Magtubo however said the opposition is ready to stop all attempts to railroad the process of amending the Constitution, particularly on Congress convening itself into a Constituent Assembly without the institutional participation of the Senate.

“We’ve been receiving text messages from the House secretary general reminding us that marathon sessions will be held from Monday till Friday next week. They’re making sure that they will have a quorum,” Magtubo said. Last Wednesday, the House majority tried but failed to amend House Rule 15 because there was a lack of quorum.

Gordon also said there simply is no basis for the House to claim that it can propose amendments on its own. He explained that the Constitution provides that Congress is a bicameral body and each votes separately on every measure.

“Even on the declaration of war, we vote separately,” Gordon argued, stressing that the House’s plan to go it alone is an “illegal way to amend the Constitution.”

Last March, 51 representatives blocked the move of the majority to secure 195 signatures (or three-fourths of the combined membership in both Chambers) needed to amend the Constitution. They filed a resolution asserting that the Constitution requires the Senate and the House to vote separately before any amendments could be introduced.

House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero said he is confident that the 51 lawmakers — 36 from the minority and 15 from the majority — have not changed their minds on the issue. Assuming this is still the case, the administration camp will be left with only 183 votes, leaving the move to amend the Constitution “virtually dead.”

But should the majority succeed in amending House Rule 15 — which would then lead to a Constituent Assembly — even Senator Franklin Drilon concedes that the administration just might succeed in pushing for the shift to a unicameral system.

Drilon said that the retirement of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban on December 7, 2006 “could lead to a 7-7 split in the 15-member tribunal which would make it unable to issue a temporary restraining order” on either the Constituent Assembly or the plebiscite to ratify the proposed amendments approved by the Lower House. It was Panganiban who gave the tie-breaking vote (8-7) dismissing the petition to amend the Constitution through an administration-backed people’s initiative.

But Senator Ralph Recto said that Charter change proponents have already lost twice in the Supreme Court in the people’s initiative petition and might lose again if they would insist on a Constituent Assembly.

Recto further told the President to cut her losses by abandoning the House plan, as the people would “surely vote a resounding ‘no'” to Charter change.

“No” to Cha-cha

Two recent surveys showed that more Filipinos are not in favor of Charter change.

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted from September 24 to October 2, revealed that 67 percent of Filipinos would still vote “no” if a plebiscite to approve a proposed new Constitution were held today. (See the SWS survey.)

Pulse Asia, meanwhile, reported that 42 percent of Filipinos say they are not in favor of Charter change, while 19 percent remained undecided on the matter. The survey was conducted from October 21 to November 8, 2006. (Read the Pulse Asia survey.)

Results in both surveys were generally the same with those recorded in earlier surveys conducted by the two polling bodies.

SWS further reported that half of the respondents are opposed to the idea of having only one chamber of Parliament elected in each district, implying that most Filipinos would rather continue having a Senate.

Pulse Asia’s survey results also showed that most Filipinos are likely to vote against proposals for a parliamentary system, federal system, and a unicameral legislature in a plebiscite on Charter change.

SWS also revealed that seven out of 10 — up from 44 percent recorded in March 2006 — reject the idea of allowing Arroyo to become head of government even after 2010. Amid criticisms that the President is pushing for a new Constitution to extend her term, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President will not run in the proposed parliament.

Recognizing the “political tension” that Charter change may cause, the Makati Business Club (MBC) the other day called on the President to put aside the plan to amend the Constitution.

“To continue their efforts now, whether through a reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s decision on the people’s initiative or by forcing a constituent assembly with a reluctant Senate, is to prolong the political uncertainty and division that have hampered our country’s efforts to uplift the welfare of its citizens, particularly the poor and the disadvantaged,” the MBC said in a statement.

SIMPLIFIED PROPOSALS FOR AMENDMENTS

I. Articles VI and VII of the 1987 Constitution are hereby amended, modified, or revised, to the extent necessary for the establishment of a Unicameral Parliamentary system of government in substitution for the present bicameral presidential, and for this purpose the following provisions are hereby adopted:

1. The legislative power shall be vested in a unicameral Parliament which shall be composed of as many Members as may be provided by law, to be apportioned among the provinces, legislative districts, and cities in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, with at least three hundred thousand inhabitants per District, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. Each district shall comprise, as far as practicable contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Existing Legislative Districts, Provinces and highly urbanized cities shall have at least one Member each.

2. Each Region as now existing or as may be created or redefined by law, shall have two Members in Parliament, elected by the registered voters in the Region. The Parliament shall also include as Members thereof those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a Party-list system of registered national, regional, political, and sectoral parties or organizations, whose number shall constitute twenty percent of the total number of Legislative Districts and Regional Members.

3. The Members of Parliament shall be elected by the qualified electors in their respective Districts or Regions, except those under the Party-list, for a term of five years beginning on the second Monday of May 2010 and every fiver years thereafter. No person shall be elected Member of Parliament unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter in the district or in the Region in which he shall be elected, and a resident hereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election, except those under the Party-list.

4. The Parliament shall elect from among the Members thereof the Prime Minister who shall be the head of the government and of the Cabinet, as well as its Speaker, and such other positions it may create.

5. There shall be an Electoral Tribunal composed of three Justices of the Supreme Court designated by the Chief Justice and six Members chosen by the Parliament on the basis of proportional representation of the Parties therein. With the senior Justice as Chairman, the Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the Members of the Parliament.

6. There shall be a commission on impeachment composed of 15 Members of Parliament chosen on the basis of proportional representation of the Parties therein. It shall have the sole power of impeachment by a majority vote all its Members. The Parliament shall try all impeachment cases elevated to it, and a vote of at least two-thirds of all Members shall be necessary to convict an impeachment.

7. Any reference in the 1987 Constitution to the Congress, the Senate or the House of Representatives, shall mean the “Parliament,” and any reference therein to the President shall mean the Prime Minister. Except as may be inconsistent with the forgoing provision and the unicameral parliamentary system herein established, all other provisions of the 1987 Constitution remain effective and valid.

II. TRANSITORY PROVISIONS

1. The Unicameral Parliamentary system and the Parliament provided herein shall begin immediately after the ratification of these amendments, with the present Congress converted into the interim parliament and all members thereof shall become automatic MEMBERS of the interim Parliament.

2. The interim Parliament, presided over by the incumbent Vice President, shall elect among its Members the interim Prime Minister upon nomination of the incumbent President. Thereafter, the interim parliament shall elect its speaker to whom after the necessary oath, the Vice President shall turn over the power as presiding officer.

3. The incumbent President and Vice President whose terms expire on June 30, 2010 shall retain the same powers and accountability, subject only to the inherent modifications herein and to the extent that the incumbent President may delegate to the interim Prime Minister powers over the ministries and of the cabinet as Chief Operating Officer of the government conformably with the Parliamentary system. Thew Vice President shall be automatic Member of Parliament and of the Cabinet during his term. The President shall appoint the heads of the various ministries at least seventy percent of whom shall be Members of Parliament.

4. The interim Parliament composed of the incumbent members of Congress shall last until noontime of December 30, 2007, together with all local officials except the Barangays. The elections for the next interim Parliament and all local officials, except the Barangays, shall be held on the second Monday of November 2007 and the terms of office of those elected shall begin noontime of December 30, 2007 until June 30, 2010, any provision of the present Constitution or any law to the contrary notwithstanding.

5. The Senators elected in May 2004 whose terms of office expire on June 30, 2010 shall continue to be automatic Members of the next interim Parliament until such date without having to run for election on the second Monday of November 2007.

RULES OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

RULE I
CONSTITUENT POWER

Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, the Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members.

Section 2. A constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution may be called by three-fourths of all Members of Congress in a resolution adopted for this purpose.

Section 3. When proposing amendments to the Constitution, Members of Congress act, no as Representatives and/or Senators, but as component elements of a constituent assembly exercising constituent power which is separate and distinct from legislative power.

RULE II
OFFICERS

Section 4. A majority of all the Members of Congress sitting in a Constituent Assembly shall elect the following officers: a. Presiding officer b. Deputy presiding officer c. Majority Floor leader d. Secretary e. Sergeant-at-arms

Section 5. The foregoing officers shall exercise the powers and functions inherent to their respective offices.

Section 6. The Presiding Officer shall appoint the staff of the secretariat.

RULE III
QUORUM

Section 7. A majority of all the Members of Congress shall constitute a quorum to conduct business in plenary session.

RULE IV
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS AND VOTING

Section 8. Any Member of Congress may introduce to the Plenary, through the Majority Floor Leader, proposed amendments to the Constitution either as individual amendments or package of amendments.

Section 9. A majority of all the Members of Congress present shall decide whether an amendment shall be considered and voted upon individually or as a package of amendments.

Section 10. The vote of three-fourths of all Members of Congress approving individual amendments or package of amendments shall be duly recorded in a roll call vote.

RULE V
SUBMISSION TO THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS

Section 11. The Presiding Officer shall certify and submit immediately to the Commission on Elections the approved proposed amendments for ratification in a plebiscite pursuant to Section 4 of Article XVII of the Constitution.

RULE VI
ADOPTION OF THESE RULES

Section 12. A vote of a majority of all the Members of the Congress shall be necessary for the adoption of or amendment to these Rules.

RULE VII
SUPPLETORY PARLIAMENTARY PRACTICES

Section 13. The parliamentary practices of the Philippine Assembly, the House of Representatives, the Senate of the Philippines and the Batasan Pambansa shall be suppletory to these Rules.

RULE VIII
EFFECTIVITY

Section 14. These Rules shall take effect on the date of their adoption.

11 Responses to ‘There’s no stopping the Cha-cha train’

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jester-in-exile

December 3rd, 2006 at 1:06 am

and thus eve (read: Las Islas Filipinas) is being tempted.

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naykika

December 3rd, 2006 at 4:29 am

There’s no stopping the Cha-Cha train. But the final approval will be submitted to the voters in the form of Plebescite; then and there the Train could be derailed off the track.

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Juan Makabayan

December 4th, 2006 at 4:37 am

Not a Constituent Assembly but a Junta, a Junta of Trapos, is what these Batasan rats are convening.

“Junta comes from the Spanish word for “joined” (hence, a group of persons joined for a common purpose), from Latin junctus, past participle of jungere, “to join.””

El Junta de los Trapos Ratos de las Islas Filipinas

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tongue in, anew

December 4th, 2006 at 5:10 am

Kailangan pa bang mag-comment diyan? Lilinisin ko muna ang suka ko…

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freewheel

December 4th, 2006 at 11:43 am

above report spoke of something important to be done today, December 4, 2007 by the House of Representathieves.

hoping that even among thieves, there must be a gesture of somekind, a peace offering to souls departed– by Typhoon Reming, say; wreak caused by nature and fatalities amplified by human negligence.

broadsheets put the numbers at 700, lifeless bodies found and missing. damage assessment while still incomplete, could easily run into tens, possibly hundreds of millions pesos.

House members could better make use of reflection; search their respective calloussed conscience (maybe there still some space pitifully left) as to whether recent fortitous events is, in a way, a nature’s speak of wrath and fury– unhappy with Palace and its legions wicked pronouncements and plans.

will the thieves in the House, finally decide to go away with their pork, scrap cha-cha plans and concentrate instead in serious legislation work?

for starters, decide as to who calls the shots when serious and impending disasters are posed to occur, NDCC? PAG-ASA? PHILVOCS? DND/DILG?

per PDI report, Palace economic adviser, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda is eerily fast to the draw, blames PhilVocs (excepting himself, expectedly) for the unusually high loss of lives. if ordinary mortals, like me for instance, are aware of PhilVocs warning bulletins in the past, specifically for the areas that were hit hardest by Typhoon Reming, what’s stopping these Bicol Reps from knowing what they ought to learn and know in the first place? perhaps too busy in fooling and thieving the people, no?

after similar experiences in the past: in Leyte, in Ormoc, in Rizal, in Zamboanga, in the periphery of Mt. Diwalwal, etc. with tens of thousands recorded fatalities; authorities are still searching for the right and effective way of Coordination in Motion?

a nagging suspicion once more, majority of the House members, including those implied and known to be Palace cheering squad, are not only busy thieving, they also do not know how to craft useful and lifesaving legislative pieces.

can’t we have a real People’s Initiative calling for the House of Thieves and the irrelevant Comelec’s ABOLITION?

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jr_lad

December 4th, 2006 at 1:05 pm

galing naman ng bagong house rules na yan. parang gusto ko ng maniwala na tuso talaga ang mga matsing… yung mga malalaki ang tenga ba. kaya lang meron tayung kasabihan…

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jester-in-exile

December 4th, 2006 at 11:41 pm

i posted this somewhere else…

Mental image: we have the Lady Charter being dragged into the House of Reprehensibles, and we have Connie, Pross, and Joe taking turns, and we have the trapo di tutti trapi and her tongsiglieri cheering them on as Lady Charter gets violated, one at a time, and all at the same time.

“Go Connie go!”

“Go Pross go!”

“Yeah, give it to her, Joe!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if the trapo di tutti trapi herself decides to take a turn — or maybe a series of turns — on our poor Lady Charter.

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Ambuot Saimo

December 5th, 2006 at 1:29 am

For me, the proposed amendment is okay provided there is an added proviso to read:

III SPECIAL PROVISIONS

1. If the Proposed Amendments is not ratified by the Filipino People in the Plebecite, the Members of Congress who voted for it are considered resigned and be sentenced to DEATH BY HANGING or at his/her option by FIRING SQUAD in the biggest public plaza of their respective districts as penalty for wasting public money, time and resources (analogous to PLUNDER) and be broadcasted live to the world via satellite. In case of a senator who was elected nationwide and do not have a particular district and decides to participate in this exercise, the execution should be carried out at the Luneta.

2. Similarly, if the converting of Congress into ConAss without Senate concurrence is questioned and affirmed by the Supreme Court, the Justices who voted for it are considered resigned and disbarred forever for gross ignorance of the law and the constitution.

*****************************
To Gloria’s Bulldogs a.k.a. Admin. Congressmen & S.C. (just in case)

The Congress of the Philippines is founded on the principle of BICAMERALISM in order to preserve check and balance. In essence, Congress is similar to a Siamese Twin having ONE BODY BUT TWO SEPARATE HEADS and as such, one cannot go anywhere unless the other consents. The Constitution is explicit on this when it provides that “The Congress of the Philippines is composed of the the SENATE and the HOUSE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES…” Thus, even if the constitutional provision allowing the convertion of congress into ConAss without expressly saying that both House & Senate should vote separately, statutory construction tells us that it is express from implied that it should be done separately. In other words, in case of ambiguity, we do not interpret the ambigouos provision by itself alone and instead we should also consider the other provisions complementing of referring each other.(see reddendo singula singulis & pari materia maxims in Stat. Const.) AYAYAYYYYY…. AMBOT SA IYONG TANAN!!!

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jester-in-exile

December 6th, 2006 at 6:09 pm

i can’t believe it had to be lacson to agree with me (haha self-serving promotion haha sorry alecks):

http://newsinfo.inq7.net/breakingnews/nation/view_article.php?article_id=36712

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INSIDE PCIJ » ‘The tyranny of the majority’

December 7th, 2006 at 11:37 am

[…] The debates last night also centered on “still unclear” constitutional amendments that the majority bloc wanted (the majority last night denied the existence of a technical working group that drafted the “simplified version” of the proposed amendments). When grilled about important issues (e.g. term limits, separation of powers, etc.) surrounding Charter change, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte for the most part remained evasive and maintained that these matters could be discussed in a Constituent Assembly. Villafuerte is one of the sponsors of HR 1450. […]

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INSIDE PCIJ » Arroyo allies call for con-con

December 9th, 2006 at 1:51 pm

[…] De Venecia also announced that should the constitutional convention push through, the elections for which will be held on May 2007 together with the elections for members of congress and local officials. De Venecia denied that the Lower House wanted the elections held on November 2007. But a document drafted by the House majority shows otherwise. Makati Business Club executive director Alberto Lim, meanwhile, said the group welcomed the call for a constitutional convention. “The MBC is against constituent assembly but we are for charter change,” Lim reiterated. But it remains to be seen if the constitutional convention will actually happen, Lim added. […]

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