Ramos gets flak for backing ‘initiative’
() - June 19, 2006 - 12:00am
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. have slammed former President Fidel Ramos for backing the government’s move to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative.

Speaking over radio station dzBB, Enrile said if brought before the Supreme Court, the move to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative would be voided.

Enrile said Cha-cha or Charter change advocates should focus on amending Article 17, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, which provides that any amendment or revision of the Constitution may be done upon a vote of three-fourths of all members of Congress.

The provision should be revised to "amendments to or revision of this Constitution may be proposed by Congress upon a majority of the votes of all its members voting separately," he said.

It would break the impasse between the Senate and the House of Representatives on the matter of amending the Constitution, Enrile said.

For his part, Pimentel said Ramos is pushing for Charter change because he wants to alter a provision in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the right to decide on economic decisions of the executive branch.

"Ramos’ support for Charter change is no plus for Cha-cha," Pimentel said.

"On the contrary, it may even be bad for Cha-cha because of his motives. Among them is his belated attempt to rectify the error he had made in granting as privileges to locators of Clark and Baguio special economic zones so that the Supreme Court is deprived of jurisdiction over economic decisions made by the Executive," he said.

Pimentel said the President, under the Constitution and existing laws, cannot extend tax incentives without the authority of Congress.

Ramos believes that the "blunder" of his administration could be remedied through Charter change, he added.

Pimentel said Ramos’s plan to play the role of "constitutional warrior" will not help the cause of Charter change unless the legal impediments to people’s initiative are cured by Congress or resolved by the Supreme Court.

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no enabling law to govern the system of people’s initiative to amend the Constitution, he added.

Pimentel said as a result, the attempt of the People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA) to lift the constitutional ban against the reelection of Ramos did not prosper.

The framers intended people’s initiative for piecemeal amendments, not a wholesale revision of the Constitution, which will be the net effect of changing the system of government being advocated by the Arroyo administration, he added.

Pimentel said Charter change is also being strongly resisted by a majority of Filipinos because of the perception that it is being used by Mrs. Arroyo to divert attention from the scandals of her administration and to allow her to stay in office despite questions of her legitimacy.

"The people abhor giving any support to Charter Change under the present circumstances," he said.

Meanwhile, the filing of the petition to amend the Constitution via the people’s initiative could be delayed by the continuous verification of signatures being conducted by the Commission on Elections.

Sources said the verification has not yet been fully completed, even as proponents of Charter change foresee the submission of the petition by July.

Milagros Desamito, Comelec information chief, said they have received reports that there are still a big number of signatures that have not yet been verified in many areas, including Metro Manila.

Election officers in Makati City and San Juan have not yet completed verifying the signatures of voters who took part in the people’s initiative, she added.

Reports said that Charter change advocates are expected to file their petition by next month.

However, Desamito said that at the rate things are going, the verification would not be completed within the proponents’ time frame.

Ferdinand Rafanan, Comelec National Capital Region director, said that as of last week, only 10 out of 30 cities and municipalities have completed their verification.

Navotas has not yet reported on the progress of the verification of signatures, he added.

However, Rafanan did not confirm reports that election officers in Makati and San Juan have not started verifying signatures.

A reliable source from the Comelec, who asked not to be identified, said this delay could affect the filing of the petition because under the law proponents of Charter change should be able to gather signatures comprising 12 percent of the total number of registered voters and three percent per legislative district.

"If there are areas that have not been verified, this would affect the filing of the petition because under the law they must comply with the requirement of 12 percent of the total number of registered voters and three percent per legislative district," the source said.

"So if one district had not been verified, the petition will not prosper." — Christina Mendez, James Mananghaya

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