100 in exchange for charter change signature

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

The move to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution refuses to die. For me, there is nothing earthshaking about it. It is natural in a democratic society where anyone can push for anything. The question is on the method to achieve the goal.

On the latest move, ?100 is allegedly offered in exchange for a signature. This is reminiscent of the time of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., as narrated by our elders, where barangay folks were asked whether they wanted snacks. Of course, raising of hands and taking of pictures followed.

You don’t expect the congresspersons --many of them, I bet-- or their staff to explain to their constituents what the proposed amendment is all about. Either they don’t understand it, or they see no point in explaining such a matter to the people in their districts.

What is important to them is that they go back to their district with reports of the waiting shed and school building projects. Not bad, but that is not what being a legislator is all about. Proposing and passing laws that improve the lives of Filipinos is their primary task.

Giving ?100 in exchange for a signature may be too small for some. But for many people, it’s not bad at all. It is enough for one kilo of rice and two cans of sardines.

We have gathered that the proponents wish to amend the economic provision of the Constitution. They want the economy to be more open to foreign investors. The more investments, the more jobs will be generated, so goes the argument.

Improving the economic well-being of the people is a noble task. Poverty is also a form of injustice and, therefore, should be addressed. The more a person is elevated in his economic status, the higher the possibility that politicians will not dictate him. It is poverty that makes people perpetually dependent on politicians via dole-outs.

I remember how former President Fidel V. Ramos firmly pushed for constitutional reforms. However, there has always been a trust issue between the government and the people. Many people believe that there is something sinister whenever there is a push to amend the Constitution. Not least is the doubt that the true intention of proponents is to extend the term of office of those in power.

As a lawyer, my concern is the merit of every proposal, not the passing passions of people who are for or against it. One of the ways to test the strength of an idea is through robust debate. Our leaders must take the lead in this area.

But how can there be an informed decision on the part of the constituents if they will just agree to a proposal in exchange for ?100 ayuda? This is both illegal and immoral.

* * *


4 January 2024

It is unethical and illegal to solicit signatures of constituents to petition for Charter change moves in exchange for ?100, in the guise of supposed people's initiative. This practice clearly violates our laws and undermines the democratic process.

The people's initiative is a constitutional right that should be exercised freely and without coercion. Whoever is behind this sinister move to tinker with the 1987 Constitution should be investigated and prosecuted for engaging in such unlawful activity. The people's trust in the democratic process must be protected and preserved.

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