Cha-cha clearly dead, says Escudero
- Jess Diaz () - November 20, 2006 - 12:00am
Charter change proponents in the House of Representatives are not saying it, but Cha-cha is now dead, the leader of the opposition in the chamber said yesterday.

"Cha-cha is clearly dead. It has not moved in the House since Congress resumed session two weeks ago," Minority Leader Francis Escudero said.

Escudero was reacting to the announcement Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. made on Saturday that "victory is at hand" for Charter change advocates, including President Arroyo.

"Our vision for reform is clear and we will not change course. We are not giving up (on Cha-cha). I think we’re even close to victory," De Venecia told a news conference.

He based his optimism on what he described as the possible reversal of the recent Supreme Court ruling killing the Sigaw ng Bayan people’s initiative. The tribunal described the Sigaw undertaking as a "grand deception" and a "gigantic fraud."

Voting 8-7, the court ruled that what Sigaw wanted to do was a "revision" of the Constitution, which only a constituent assembly (con-ass) or a constitutional convention can do, and not an "amendment" that can be effected through a people’s initiative.

Escudero said he does not believe the Supreme Court would reverse its ruling on the "revision or amendment" issue.

"As Fr. Joaquin Bernas has repeatedly explained, changing the form of government or the structure of the legislature, which Sigaw was proposing, is a revision and not a simple amendment. According to Fr. Bernas, this is clear even to a first-year law student," he said.

Bernas was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that wrote the present Constitution. He is a widely respected authority on law and the Constitution.

Escudero said Cha-cha proponents "are hoping against hope that the Supreme Court will reverse its ruling, but they know that will not happen."

"They know that even their Plan B for Cha-cha, which calls for railroading the approval of amendments without the participation of the Senate, will not happen," he said.

He said by keeping Cha-cha alive in their public statements, President Arroyo’s allies in Congress are giving governors, mayors and other local executives false hopes about the possible scrapping of next year’s elections and the lifting of term limits for elective officials.

"Behind the public façade is the realization that Cha-cha is dead and the May 2007 elections will push through. This is the reason why Mrs. Arroyo’s allies have started visiting their districts more frequently to make up for lost time. This is the reason why there has been no quorum in the House for the past two weeks," he added.

In a related development, two administration congressmen slammed the opposition for allegedly "salivating over and positioning to boost their prospects for the 2007 elections."

"The opposition should be reminded that the elections are still far away, hence they should focus on more urgent matters at hand involving the welfare of the nation and the people," said Representatives Gerry Salapudin of Basilan and Mauricio Domogan of Baguio City in a joint statement. — With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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