Senate says ‘people’s initiative’ exploits democratic process

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Senate says �people�s initiative� exploits democratic process
This photo shows Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Senate of the Philippines / Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Tuesday issued a manifesto condemning the “people’s initiative” to amend provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which they said will undermine the power of the Senate. 

The people’s initiative, according to the manifesto signed by the 24 senators, seeks to allow all members of Congress — the Senate and the House of Representatives (HoR) — to jointly vote on the proposed amendments in a constitutional assembly.

“If this people initiative prospers, further changes to the Constitution can be done with or without the Senate's approval, or worse, even absent all the Senators," the manifesto said, which was read by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri during Tuesday’s Senate session.

“While it seems simple, the goal is apparent — to make it easier to revise the Constitution by eliminating the Senate from the equation," the manifesto read. 

Should the desired amendment prosper, the 24 members of the Senate “cannot cast a meaningful vote” against the 316 members of the HoR, according to the Senate manifesto. 

The Senate also said that an “innocuous” change in the Constitution would “open the floodgates” to amendments and revisions that would “erode the nation.”

“To allow joint voting will destroy the delicate balance on which our hard-won democracy rests. It will destabilize the principle of bicameralism and our system of checks and balances,” the manifesto read. 

Changing the amendment, according to the lawmakers, will leave them “powerless” to block proposals on giving land ownership to foreigners; removal of term limits for elected government officials and a possible no-election scenario in the following years.

"Today, the Senate once again stands as a bastion of democracy, as it rejects this brazen attempt to violate the Constitution, the country, and our people,” the lawmakers said.

The 1987 Constitution, which was ratified a year after the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., gave legislative power to both the Senate and the HoR, and trimmed the term limits of the members of Congress. 

In a separate statement, Sen. Robinhood Padilla, an avid advocate of Charter change (Cha-Cha), said that he only supports “constitutional change” but not the Senate and the HoR voting jointly.

On January 15, Zubiri revealed that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the Senate to take the lead on reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution.

On the same day, Zubiri and two other senators filed Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) No. 6 which asked both the HoR and the Senate to review the economic provisions of the Constitutions covered by the amendments to the Public Service Act.

But earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that many senators are no longer interested in RHB No. 6, claiming that the leaders of the HoR are behind the people’s initiative

"It’s obviously the main reason why a lot of senators are not interested anymore in pushing for the joint resolution," Villanueva said in a press conference. 

On January 19, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said that only minor amendments that are “clear and certain” are allowed through people’s initiative. 

Villanueva’s statement is ‘baseless’

In response to Villanueva, House Majority Leader Manuel Dalipe said that the senator's statement raises serious concern as it is allegedly “essential” in amending the Constitution.

“His [Villanueva] assertion that ‘a lot of senators are not interested anymore in pushing for’ Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6—an essential measure aimed at convening a constitutional convention to amend the 1987 Constitution—raises serious concerns,” Dalipe said in a statement.

Dalipe said that Villanueva’s claim that the HoR is behind the people’s initiative is “baseless.”

“These claims, grounded in allegations linking the House leadership to the people's initiative, are not only baseless but also regrettably cast a shadow over the collaborative efforts required for constitutional reforms,” Dalipe said in a statement.

In a separate press release, House Speaker Martin Romualdez emphasized that the HoR is not behind any initiatives urging the public to join the people’s initiative. 

“The House does not endorse or sanction direct participation by its members in signature gathering, ensuring the process's integrity and independence remains intact,” Romualdez said in a press release. 

“Such actions, if true, would violate the initiative's spirit of honest and voluntary participation and erode our democratic foundations,” he added. 

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) and other lawmakers first flagged the people’s initiative, saying that some public officials give P100 payouts to individuals who signed the petition. 

Sen. Imee Marcos also claimed in early January that each congressional district was offered P20 million to gather enough signatures to support the Cha-Cha initiative.

On January 14, the Makabayan bloc filed a resolution seeking to probe the alleged use of public funds and signature-buying for the people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution. — with reports from Cristina Chi and Daphne Galvez

vuukle comment












  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with