Sigaw ng Bayan: Our next target is plebiscite
- Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe () - May 22, 2006 - 12:00am
Major proponents of the people’s initiative for Charter change said yesterday their next target is a national referendum to ratify the proposal for a shift to a unicameral parliamentary system of government.

The Sigaw ng Bayan movement and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) also announced that voters’ signatures in 194 congressional districts have been officially verified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

"There is no stopping Charter reform. Everywhere you go in the countryside, this is the overwhelming sentiment of the Filipino people," said ULAP secretary general Mandaue City Councilor Carlo Fortuna, who is also the national president of the 17,000-strong Philippine Councilors League (PCL).

Sigaw marks a milestone on Thursday when it holds a "Parliyamento ng Bayan" at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Malate, Manila. This event will gather 10,000 "constitutional warriors" to prove to the Senate and opponents of constitutional reforms that the Filipino people want to change the country’s political structure.

Sigaw spokesman Raul Lambino said the Senate’s position — that constitutional amendments can be legislated — is a "grand deception" because of the Senate’s continuing refusal to heed the growing clamor for change.

Cotabato Gov. Manny Piñol, reporting on Sigaw’s success in Mindanao, said Filipinos have warmly accepted the idea of a change in the form of government.

"Their question is, when are we going to have it in place?" he said.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said his provincial constituents are asking about the referendum.

Other local leaders under ULAP and the different local government officials’ groups, led by the League of Provinces, League of Cities, League of Municipalities and the Liga ng mga Barangay, have denounced the Senate’s deception and asked opponents of Charter reform to debate the issue of change intelligently.

"If their claim that the people are against it is true, then let the people decide in a national referendum," Piñol and Evardone said.

In order to petition the Comelec to hold a referendum on shifting to a unicameral parliamentary system, Sigaw launched the people’s initiative to effect Charter change. According to a constitutional provision, Sigaw needs to gather the signatures of 12 percent of registered voters nationwide, representing three percent of voters in each congressional district. In order to count, each signature has to be verified by the Comelec.

Lambino dared Charter change opponents to stop talking and instead question the legality of the people’s initiative before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, ULAP has completed its Charter change information drive in 60 of the country’s 79 provinces. By next week, ULAP plans to hold fora in more than 100 cities and 1,500 municipalities.

The focus of the drive is on educating people about the shift to a parliamentary system and the need to have a unicameral legislature, ULAP said.

Similar information drives are being undertaken by big business and party-list groups.

Buoyed by the success of ULAP’s advocacy drive in the provinces, the country’s state universities and colleges will open their campuses in June to discussions on the proposed parliamentary shift via the people’s initiative.

The forums will be hosted by these educational institutions in partnership with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, and non-government organizations.

This agreement was reached during a recent Charter change forum at the Bulacan State College in Malolos City. The forum was attended by CHED chairman Carlito Puno and Lambino.

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