Senate rejects efforts to dilute vote on ‘Cha-cha’

Senate rejects efforts to dilute vote on ‘Cha-cha’

PHILIPPINE senators on Tuesday opposed a proposal for both chambers of Congress to vote jointly to change the 1987 Constitution, saying senators could not cast meaningful votes against more than 300 congressmen.

“If this people’s initiative prospers, further changes in the Constitution will open the floodgates to a wave of amendments and revisions that will erode the nation as we know it,” according to a statement signed by all senators and read by Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri in plenary.

Last week, Mr. Zubiri said President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. had asked the upper chamber to lead the review of the Constitution’s economic provisions, saying the President thought a people’s initiative push is too divisive.

The Senate president said a joint voting on charter change (“Cha-cha”) would “destabilize the system of checks and balances.”

“It is ridiculous that the Senate, a co-equal member of the House, which is needed to pass even local bills, will have a dispensable and diluted role in Charter change, the most monumental act of policymaking concerning the highest law of the land,” according to the Senate statement.

The People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action earlier released a TV ad advocating Charter change, saying farmers, students and local businesses did not benefit from the 1987 Constitution.

Senator and presidential sister Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos earlier said as much as P20 million was offered to districts in several provinces that could deliver 20,000 signatures in favor of Charter change.

Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman also said P100 was allegedly given to voters who signed a petition in favor of amending the Constitution through a people’s initiative.

Senate Majority Leader Joel J. Villanueva has said Charter change would not solve the country’s problems. “The Constitution cannot simply be tampered, changed or amended, but this doesn’t mean that it’s perfect,” he said in a statement in Filipino on Monday.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said it is crucial to revisit the Constitution to boost foreign capital and investments, but denounced the alleged vote-buying campaign.

“The House of Representatives stands committed to providing a transparent and accountable framework to support the people’s initiative, ensuring that it remains a true representation of the people’s collective will,” he said.

Mr. Marcos said he would leave it to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to verify signature campaigns allegedly used to buy votes in favor of amending the Constitution.   

“We will just let Comelec do their job, do their work to validate the signatures and if there’s a suspicion, then the signatures won’t be counted,” he told reporters on the sidelines of his visit to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City.

The President said last month efforts were under way to revisit the economic provisions of the Constitution. — John Victor D. Ordoñez