Wednesday, June 07, 2006


The Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) today warned local government officials against spending taxpayers’ money to push the illegal and immoral people’s initiative to revise the 1987 Constitution.

Lawyer Neri Colmenares, co-convenor of CODAL, issued the warning after local executives of the National Capital Region (Metro Manila) led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza committed to join the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the Malacanang-backed Sigaw ng Bayan in their information blitz in Metro Manila on the proposed shift to a unicameral parliamentary system.

Atienza’s group belonging to Metro Manila Mayors Leagues (MMML) is scheduled to launch in the metropolis the information campaign on Charter Change next week.

“We strongly warn local executives not to misuse taxpayers’ money for an exercise which the Supreme Court itself has declared illegal many years ago,” Colmenares said.

In the case of Defensor-Santiago vs Comelec, the Supreme Court ruled on March 19, 1997 that Republic Act 6735, which provides for a system of initiative and referendum, is “incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned…” Chief Justice Hilario Davide in his decision in the PIRMA motion for reconsideration has categorically declared RA 6735 ‘unconstitutional’.

Art. XVII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution requires a law for the exercise of a people’s initiative by declaring that “Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through a people’s initiative… The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.” Since the Supreme Court has struck down the initiatives law, the current people’s initiative is unconstitutional for lack of an enabling law.

The High Court in its ruling also enjoined the Commission on Elections not to entertain any petition for a people’s initiative in the absence of a law.

Colmenares also said ULAP and MMML are only wasting their time and efforts in pushing for a political exercise which from the very start they know is illegal.

“People’s initiative is only for amendments of specific provisions in the Constitution and not for changing the form of government or any other revision as pushed by the present administration,” he explained.

The CODAL official also accused proponents of pro-charter change of pushing for charter change for the interest of a few, and not for the Filipino people.

Under a unicameral system the people will be deprived of their right to vote directly for the President. “They can no longer choose their head of government like the President. Only members of Parliament will choose the Prime Minister. The proposed Constitution which, among others, abolishes the Senate in lieu of a unicameral system, eliminates the Commission on Appointment, and judicial checks on the martial law powers of the President or the Prime Minister, is designed for unaccountability by eliminating checks and balances contained in the current Constitution.

Under the proposed parliamentary system, he explained, the Executive and the Legislative will be merged. This means that they will be the ones who will make and implement laws.

Pro-chacha followers have been rushing charter change to preempt the filing of the prepared impeachment complaint on June 27 and to ensure that Pres. Gloria Arroyo will no longer be addressing the Senate during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.

Colmenares said that “ The pro-chacha advocates must now accept defeat and give up. The President herself has admitted that contrary to her wishes, she will be addressing two houses of Congress when she delivers her State of the Nation Address on July 24. Furthermore, the impeachment complaint will be filed on June 27 as planned.”

Under Art. VII, Sec. 1 (2) of Sigaw ng Bayan’s proposed Constitution, the required votes to impeach the President is increased to unattainable two-thirds votes from the current one-third votes of the members of the House of Representatives, to wit:

Sec. 1 (2) The incumbent President and Vice-President shall serve until the expiration of their term at noon on the thirtieth day of June 2010 and shall continue to exercise their powers under the 1987 Constitution unless impeached by a vote of two-thirds of all members of the interim parliament.

Since the new Constitution will not be in place when Congress opens, the impeachment complaint may still be immediately transmitted to the Senate upon the endorsement of only 1/3 of the members of the House of Representatives thereby defeating the scheme to insulate the President from the ‘creeping impeachment’ rule.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date : June 7, 2006


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