MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Tuesday confronted the group behind the Charter Change (Cha-cha) signing campaign for allegedly “misleading” the public and trying to “castrate” the Senate.
It all started with Senator Nancy Binay, who asked lawyer Anthony Abad during Tuesday's hearing of the Senate committee on electoral reforms about the “ultimate goal” of the people's initiative (PI) for Cha-cha.
Abad's name appeared on signature forms distributed by the People's Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (Pirma).
Although he said he does not have “a specific structure or structure in mind”, Abad mentioned that economic provisions “have to be addressed”.
Why then didn't the proponents say this directly on the signature forms? asked Binay and Senator Imee Marcos, head of the Senate electoral reforms committee.
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Later, Abad pointed to Pirma convener Noel Oñate and other petitioners to explain the reasons behind the signature campaign.
“In my opinion, the reason why we only vote together is because, in a popular initiative, we can only propose one item,” said Oñate.
The group's lawyer, Alex Avisado, supported this explanation, adding that they were informed that they can only propose changes on one matter.
Avisado also cited the feeling that “the door to changing the Charter has always been closed from the House of Representatives to the Senate.”
“He is sure?” Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa repeatedly asked the resource persons.
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“From the beginning there was really an intention to emasculate the Senate. This is what you really want, because you joined immediately,” said Dela Rosa.
(This is what you really want because you instantly suggested [joint voting].)
All 24 senators rejected the PI because of the proposal that voting on any amendments to the 1987 Constitution be done jointly by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Avisado further explained that the consensus within the group was to propose changes through the PI, since the vote requirement was the only subject of the petition.
“It may be very unpopular and very antagonistic in the Senate, but pasensya na po talaga ho kayo, but this is the group’s campaign on popular initiative,” said the lawyer.
(It may be very unpopular and very antagonistic in the Senate, but I'm sorry, but this is the group's campaign on popular initiative.)
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Binay agreed with dela Rosa that there was indeed an attempt to restrict the Senate's power by amending another provision of the 1987 Constitution.
According to her, PI proponents propose that the joint vote can be called by the President of the Chamber of Deputies “or” by the President of the Senate when it should be the President “and” the President of the Senate.
“You appointed him president of the House or president of the Senate, so there was really that intention to diminish the power of the Senate, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution, which requires a bicameral configuration of the House and then the Senate,” Binay said.
(You appointed him President or President of the Senate, so there was really that intention to reduce the power of the Senate, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution that the configuration of the Chamber and the Senate must be bicameral.)
Oñate, however, stated that he did not participate in the creation of the signature forms.
“But you agreed to it. Did you agree to this arrangement, tama po ba (correct)?” Binay asked, to which the Pirma convener replied yes.
Dela Rosa insisted that it was very clear that Oñate only joined the PI to emasculate the Senate.
He also accused the group of deceiving the public after releasing an advertisement with proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution, but the proposal in the PI calls for flexibility in the Senate.
“How deceptive can you be with that kind of approach?” asked Dela Rosa.
“We apologize, we understand your frustration, Senator Dela Rosa, but that was not our intention…” said Avisado.