Thursday, March 30, 2006

Four Months To Parliamentary Unicameral Utopia?

EITHER the Speaker of the House of Representatives is dreaming. Or we are. But JOSE DE VENECIA has just proclaimed to ABSCBN News anchor Ricky Carandang that the People’s Initiative which miraculously started up just last weekend has already exceeded the 12% requirement on the percentage of registered voters signing the petition to amend the 1987 Constitution and shift from the present Bicameral-Presidential to a Unicameral-Parliamentary form of government. In an ebullient, fast-paced scenario, JDV declares that we could have a new Parliament in place by July. Of 2006! Just three or four months from now.

Here is how it could happen, according to JDV:

First, Comelec will verify the signatures, as indeed, they already have, in Pangasinan, according to him. Whether Comelec then gives due course to the initiative or not, the case will surely reach the Supreme Court. If the initiative is rejected by Comelec, the Petitioners will appeal while the Opposition will surely question the legality of the People’s Initiative if Comelec approves it for campaign and plebiscite. JDV seems supernally confident that Supreme Court will have a chance to “reconsider” the Decision it rendered in 1997 -- Santiago vs. Comelec – That Decision was penned by Hilario G. Davide, Jr. whose Conclusion reads --
This petition must then be granted, and the COMELEC should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments on the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.
We feel, however, that the system of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution should no longer be kept in the cold; it should be given flesh and blood, energy and strength. Congress should not tarry any longer in complying with the constitutional mandate to provide for the implementation of the right of the people under that system.
That second paragraph of then Chief Justice Davide’s ponencia may now be invoked by the likes of Raul Lambino, Sergio Apostol and Jose de Venecia. JDV was breathlessly painting a picture of a massive, spontaneous, nationwide movement of people “clamoring” for Charter Change, “clamoring” for a shift to the Parliamentary System of Government, “clamoring” to sign up to Charter Change..."clamoring" for him to be Prime Minister? Chief Operating Officer JDV? (well some of these were the thought bubbles...)

JDV said that Santiago v. Comelec could be history by May and by June a campaign and plebiscite around a new form of government could be held. JDV says that by July a new Parliament couldbe in place, containing one-third of the present Cabinet, who would automatically be considered Members of Parliament under Transitory Provisions. The Speaker was waxing sentimental as he described the scenario that would then occur in 2007. An Interim Parliament would be elected, along with an Interim Prime Minister who would serve as “Chief Operating Officer” of the Republic under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who would continue as “Chief Executive Officer” in a “French –style” of parliamentary-presidential system. Naturally JDV sees himself in that new role of C.O.O.

Looks like JDV has already moved into his Parliament-cum-Palace in the Sky, because he also told Ricky Carandang at noon time that once we have a new Parliamentary system in place by this coming July (We are barely 3 months to Utopia, dontcha know?) there will be a much easier way of tackling the rest of the changes required in the Constitution, such as electoral reform, economic and political reform, and all the rest! Then again... this is the Philippines where some very strange things have happened and people don't really seem to care.

But what is so crucial about that June July time frame during which the Speaker of the House of Representatives predicts we shall all be in the throes of a campaign and plebiscite over a new Unicameral Parliamentary system.

Oh yeah, Round Two of the Impeachment Battle.

Ah...but here is some ammo for JDV's side...

Pulse Asia, Inc. reports on a Question that it asked of 1200 adult voters during its March, 2006 National Survey with the raw data breakdown in the following Table:

Table 3 Whether It Is Right to Amend the Present Constitution Now or Not (March 2005, Oct. 2005 and March 2006)


Question #176: Sa inyong palagay, tama ba na baguhin ang Konstitution sa ngayon? (In your opinion, is it right to change the Constitution now?)


But, Pulse Asia gave its respondents exactly four possible answers to choose from in the survey: (The three percentage numbers that follow below are the nationwide responses from March 2005, October 2005 and March 2006.)

Choice of Answers:

(1) YES the Constitution should be amended now. (29% ... 36% ... 43%)

(2) NO, the Constitution should not be amended now but it may be amended at some time in the future.(27% ... 35% ... 24%)

(3) NO, the Constitution should not be amended now nor any other time. (28% ... 20% ... 24%)

(4) Don't know or can't say.(16% ... 8% ... 9%)


There is something fishy about this question because of the allowed answers listed by the pollster. Notice that there are two NO categories here. But consider a slightly different but closely related question:

What percentage of Filipinos are in favor of amending the Constitution?


According to Table 3 it would appear as if a strong majority of Filipinos -- two-thirds or 67A% of them in fact -- are in favor of Charter Change now or in the future, while a shrinking minority of 24% say No, not ever. Yet, the data also shows that since March 2005, the fraction of the adult voters who are for changing the Charter NOW has been on an increasing trend from 29% to 43%, a sizeable change.

Now look at how Pulse Asia reported on and interpreted this same data:
Filipinos are essentially divided on whether it is right to amend the Constitution now

About the same number of Filipinos (48%) does not consider it right to amend the 1987 Constitution at present as consider it right to amend it now (43%). Nearly one in ten (9%) is undecided regarding the timing of charter change. Of the 48% who deem charter change inappropriate at present, half (24%) oppose it now but are open to it in the future, while the other half (24%) do not see the need for charter change now or at any other time in the future (See Table 2)

Even as a big plurality of Filipino adults think it is not right to amend the constitution now (48%), this sentiment is now expressed by fewer Filipinos relative to the previous year. In March and October 2005, a small majority of Filipinos (55%) did not think it right to have charter change at the time. Between October 2005 and March 2006, the percentage of those opposing charter change now drops significantly in Class ABC (-18 percentage points) and in Metro Manila (-19 percentage points) (See Table 3)

The percentage of Filipinos in support of having charter change immediately has been increasing since March 2005 when only 29% of Filipinos were for the immediate amendment of the Constitution. In October 2005, this figure rose to 36% and it now stands at 43%. Between October 2005 and March 2006, agreement with having charter change now goes up in the poorest socio-economic Class E (+12 percentage points) and in Metro Manila (+15 percentage points). Fewer Filipinos are now for having charter change sometime in the future instead of immediately (24% in March 2006 versus 35% in October 2005), while indecision regarding the timing of charter change has dropped (from 16% to 9% between March 2005 and March 2006) (See Table 3)

On the other hand, the percentage absolutely opposed to charter change (i.e., not now nor at any other time in the future) remains nearly constant between October 2005 and March 2006 across all of the country’s geographic areas and socio-economic classes (See Table 3)
It now appears that the best way to read the March 2006 Ulat ng Bayan national survey on Charter Change from Pulse Asia, Inc. is to ignore the heavily editorialized "Media Release" wrapper and go directly to the Tables which contain the original survey questions in Tagalog and the breakdown of respondent's answers.

16 comments:

Atty-at-Work said...

I really can't understand Chairman Abalos. He said that the Comelec has no choice but to conduct the verification of the signatures, then decide sufficiency of the petition. However, as you noted, the Santiago decision explicitly stated that the Comelec is "PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments on the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system."

Since the decision of the SC is part of the law of the land, is Abalos (or the Comnelec) violating the law? Comelec should not even proceed to verification of the signatures, but dismiss the petition OUTRIGHT, as it did in PIRMA vs. COMELEC. If the proponents of Charter Change would want to question the dismissal to the SC, let them do that.

Rizalist said...

Fred,

I think that several different institutions now see Chacha as the way out of the mess created by Edsa 2. The Presidency, the Congress, the Judiciary and the Military. But especially the Supreme Court. They know the Erap cases are a ticking time bomb.

What's your take on the Erap case. Will he be acquitted or convicted at the Sandiganbayan?

Lord Dracula said...

Now I feel more confident that the SC will overturn Defensor-Santiago v. Comelec.

Or they will tarry once more until we are now in a parliamentary system, probably using the moot-and-academic tact.

Pingkian said...

In reference to your earlier post. I visited the SC's website and found no new decision on the the issue of People's Initiative. Your right and I'm referring to Santiago vs. Comelec, GR No. 129754, 23 September 1997.

By the way, may I ask, how long would SC resolve the issue if the proponents of Charter Change would want to question the dismissal to the SC which would definitely challenged by anti chacha? And if however the SC reverses itself, what can the anti chacha do, can the anti chacha challenge the process and the results of the pro chacha people's initialtive? Can we get a TRO if a plebisite is conducted assuming that the COMELEC was able to validate the signitures for chacha?

A wild guess, it would take more than a year (beyond May 2007)before the issue is legally settled by the SC. As such, I go with Rizalist in his earlier post that chacha shebang is a diversion to drown out impeachment.

Rizalist said...

Pingkian, good point raised by nene pimentel on tv tonight. He says the People's Initiative is a desperation move by JDV because the House Minority has already secured 50 votes against chacha and conass. P.I. is the only route left for chacha. I guess GMA will just let JDV try to make it work, it it doesn't fly it's still on to 2010!

Atty-at-Work said...

Dean,

If some institutions believe that ChaCha is the way out of the mess, they're gravely mistaken. ChaCha will only deepen old wounds and create new ones. It will destroy institutions that we tried to rebuild after Martial Law. It will create more mess. In fact, I'd love to see a wall, with the names of those pushing for ChaCha permanently etched on it, so that the next generation can DAMN them for the mess they've made.

The Erap case will always be a ticking time bomb...even if they change the form of government. I still have to see how the testimony of Erap will go...but I long believed he will be exonerated.

Arbet, I don't think the SC will overturn Santiago...that's why i agree with DJB and Pingkian that it's a diversionary tactic...

HILLBLOGGER said...

Hi Dean,

Agree with you. This PI is plain Palace diversionary tactic.

Bahhh! Just look at all op-ed columns, the news, the blogs, media, Congress, all political institutions, etc. are focused on this PI.

Impeachment, Garci, military restiveness and other important issues are taking a backseat...

Time to re-calibrate Dean...

Lord Dracula said...

I'd love to be wrong. I hope I am wrong.

As for those 50 congressmen: some of them will flip-flop. After all, that is the House of Representatives, where votes and signatures can change anytime. I hope I am wrong.

Pol said...

Atty said "I really can't understand Chairman Abalos"

Chairman Abalos' "initiatory steps" for chacha is to Rep Lagman's "prejudial questions" against the impeachment complaint.

Pol said...

"Constitutional Coup
GMA’s central agenda since the “let’s start the great debate” SONA, changing the present charter with her “ultimate solution” constitution will accomplish two objectives: escape from accountability and entrench her and her allies in power. GMA allies will dominate a unicameral Parliament that has the sole power to impeach her. With some of the limitations on her powers today removed, the power to dissolve the Parliament and a “Supreme Court stripped of the power to determine whether she has gravely abused her discretion”, GMA will have the vast powers exercised by President Marcos.

Crucially, GMA’s constitutional coup would effectively undercut any legal and constitutional challenge to her legitimacy and let her stay in power, constitutionally more secure, from the transitory period to 2010 and beyond. Without true mandate, GMA bribes, entices, corrupts and cons to remain in power. Each day that she stays in Malacanang, our patrimony is being plundered, our treasury pillaged, our institutions damaged, our future pawned, our land served as collateral until our sovereignty is virtually surrendered."
http://icbcp.blogspot.com/

Rizalist said...

Folks -- Today is the 33 anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Decision Javellana vs. Executive Secretary. SCRA 50 MAR31-APRIL30, 1973. Been reading it today...contains all the arguments we will now hear!

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

I went to our Barangay Hall to get my cedula and saw the staff collating pages of People's Initiative signatures. Some pages have only four signatures but I have no doubt that when it reaches their destination the pages will all be filled-up with signatures. So yes, DJB, I believe that they that they already have the required signatures.

In fact, JVD could have made the announcement in the first hour of the day they started it. Did not Channel 7 catch on video DILG operatives at Byron Hotel carting away boxes of signed PI surveys? In their haste they left one box. They were found out. That's the only way they can hasten the process, without the people.

No, I don't believe that they can get legitimate signatures that fast. But yes, they can manufacture illegitimate signatures at the snap of a finger. I just hope that people-friendly columnist should not accept the victory of GMA-backed People Initiative that fast. They should not declare that it is bound to win even before the count is over. They are helping Malacanang's effort for the people to accept it even if the signatures are manufactured.

God bless our land!

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Now, we have a fight. Malacanang Peoples Initiative vs A Snap Election!
21 Senators signed a resolution for a SNAP ELECTIONs. At last, a step towards what I blogged two weeks ago, to give the people a chance to elect their President and for everybody to accept whoever is truly elected.

Point me towards the line please, Sen. Serge Osmena.

Rizalist said...

Dean Raul Pangalangan has an interesting comment this morning:Therefore, the true defect of the current direct initiative does not lie in the doctrinal minutiae that lawyers get excited about -- amendment versus revision, adequate for proposing laws but not for amending constitutions. The flaw of this people's initiative is that it does not belong to the people. It belongs to the Department of Interior and Local Government, which convened the barangay assemblies to discuss innocuous-sounding matters like "health, agriculture, education" -- innocent, that is, until you get to the part "and current issues affecting the country," Orwellian lingo for Charter change. Where in the Constitution do we find "politicians' initiative"?

Juan said...

bernardo F. Ronquillo said...
Now, we have a fight. Malacanang Peoples Initiative vs A Snap Election!

Or is it Cha-cha vs Snap Election?

This should be Voters' Vendetta against no elections scenario and against no direct election of chief executive.
Can we please work on a combined people's iniative and legislative initiative for a snap election?

Rizalist said...

BFR, POL, But on what basis a snap election? I thought only if President and VP resigned...

BTW I've just posted the following comment on ED Lacierda's blog;

ED--Justice Davide's Conclusion in Santiago v. Comelec reads--This petition must then be granted, and the COMELEC should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments on the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.

We feel, however, that the system of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution should no longer be kept in the cold; it should be given flesh and blood, energy and strength. Congress should not tarry any longer in complying with the constitutional mandate to provide for the implementation of the right of the people under that system.


Assuming at some future date an enabling law acceptable to the SC has been passed, can you give an example of an "amendment on the Constitution" that could be considered appropriate for a "mere people's initiative"? I mean, an example of amending the Constitution not a mere "national law, rule or regulation."