A looming explosive constitutional crisis

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

Even as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has suspended its resolution on the People's Initiative, even when the president has summoned the Senate president to the Palace to stop all this bickering, both protagonists, the Senate and the House, continue to work to undermine each other. A crisis is about to explode while the people are suffering from poverty and social injustices.

At a time when our country is not strong enough to withstand a major problem that can break the whole nation, the Philippine Senate is frontally challenging the House of Representative on the legality and the propriety of the purported Peoples' Initiative concocted by the Lower House. We all know that the House is under the control and domination of the speaker, who happens to be the favorite first cousin of the president. A constitutional crisis is about to erupt.

The Comelec added fuel to the fire by accepting alleged signatures and started counting them when the commission knows for a fact that there is no pending petition ever filed for such a mode of amending the Constitution. Such a move is being criticized not only by the senators but by leading constitutionalists and election lawyers.

One major oppositionist to the concoction by the House is no less than the elder sister of president BBM, Sen. Imee Marcos, who minces no words in denouncing the impertinent audacity of her cousin, the speaker. Another prominent critic against this move is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution himself, Atty. Christian Monsod.

A prominent election lawyer, Atty. Romy Macalintal, who has won a number of landmark cases before the Supreme Court, has urged the Comelec to cease and desist from official actions on an unfiled petition. The Comelec chairman and his spokesman cannot make a plausible argument that receiving signatures is a ministerial duty of the Comelec. There is nothing ministerial in officially counting volumes of signatures emanating from sources which have not even properly identified themselves, much less have proven that they have the legal personality to represent unknown and unidentified signatories to a petition which is still to be filed.

Senator Bato dela Rosa is making noise about simple folks in Davao who were supposedly paid a few hundred pesos to sign documents which were not properly and adequately explained. The former speaker of the House, Congressman Bebot Alvarez of the 1st District of Davao del Norte, is also planning to file a petition before the Supreme Court to seek annulment of this preposterous and surreptitious manipulation of the peoples' will. Senator Koko Pimentel, the Senate minority leader, is poised to file the same petition, along with the only other oppositionist in the Senate, Risa Hontiveros.

The Senate manifesto signed by all 24 senators is a strong denunciation against the leadership of the House. Even President BBM already called both the Senate and the House leadership and the president already declared that he is in favor of the Senate studying and leading the proposed constitutional amendment. But over and above personalities, beyond partisan politics and conflicting presidential ambitions between the group of Romualdez and the supporters of the Dutertes who are against this so-called "tambaloslos" initiative.

By all appearances, all these conflicts are likely to lead to the exacerbation of the worsening fragmentation among the people. And the Supreme Court will be confronted with a landmark and controversial case that can push the whole nation to chaos due to this looming constitutional crisis. Our country may not be strong enough to contain a crisis of this magnitude.

We are all in for a turbulent first quarter of this year of the dragon. Brace yourself, this nation may be in for a major tremor.

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