Salceda:  Politicians should not stop people’s initiative for Cha-cha

Politicians should not get in the way of the ongoing signature campaign for people’s initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution, veteran lawmaker Joey Salceda of Albay said.

“We should allow the People’s Initiative to reach its natural course…to reach its local conclusion,” Salceda, head of the House ways and means committee, said.

“We are in no position to stop it. It is beyond any politician to stop it,” he added.

Several groups nationwide have launched signature campaigns that ask voters if they are in favor of amending Article 17 Section 1 of the Constitution to allow members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to jointly vote on the proposed constitutional amendments.

The said initiative of signature gathering for Charter Change (Cha-Cha) — falls under the people’s initiative provision of the Constitution, which states that amendments can be directly proposed by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least 3% of the registered voters therein.”

Salceda said that as of Wednesday, he has received reports that 60 of the country’s at least 253 districts, and each of these districts which have gathered signatures already breached the required threshold of 3% of their registered voters.  He added that there are districts with at least 20 percent of voters who are in favor of Cha-cha.


Last week, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. believes the proposed amendments in people’s initiative for Charter change was “too divisive.”

Zubiri said he and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda met with Marcos and House Speaker Martin Romualdez on January 11 before the Vin d’Honneur to raise concerns on the proposed amendments contained in the people’s initiative.

“The President agreed with us that the proposal was too divisive, and asked the Senate to instead take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution. In this way, we can preserve our bicameral nature of legislation,” he had said.

Zubiri with Legarda and Senator Sonny Angara had filed Resolution of Both Houses No. 6, proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. It included reforms in the Public Services Act, education, and advertising industry by adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

‘Vote buying’

Opposition lawmakers Edcel Lagman and Raoul Manuel had accused some officials of buying signatures and tricking people into signing documents that allegedly portray there is a public clamor to make certain changes in the 1987 Constitution.

Lagman, Albay 1st district congressman, had claimed that coordinators of party-list Ako Bicol received money to ensure their constituents would support the people’s initiative.

Manuel had said his office received reports from the Urban Poor Coordinating Council that certain community leaders are making beneficiaries of government subsidies sign forms pushing for Charter change, telling them that the move is needed for them to continue receiving government aid.

Lagman said the buying of signatures for the petition on People’s Initiative is a violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code in relation to Section 19 of the Initiative and Referendum Act or Republic Act 6735.

Lagman also cited previous Supreme Court decisions on amending the Charter via the People’s Initiative that involved spurious signatures.

First step

Salceda said that signature gathering is just the first step in the long and winding process of steering People’s Initiative for charter change.

“It (People’s Initiative) has its own momentum, has its own traction. But for all you know, maybe the campaign won’t reach the required 12% because at least 20% of the districts are proving to be difficult,” he said.

But Salceda noted that as it is, the People’s Initiative will resolve the impasse between the House and the Senate which have different versions of the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“In our version, restrictions will be lifted on [foreign] investments in agriculture and natural resources. The Senate does not have that. There is no way to reconcile that. Our constitutional function is different when [we in] Congress acts on legislative duty and not as ConAss. When we sit together in a ConAss, we can change the RBH together,” he said.

Salceda then cited that the fact that the Senate failed to act on 358 previous attempts by the House of Representatives to amend the Constitution shows that Cha-cha needs to be given a chance under a different framework such as people’s initiative.

“I think everybody will agree that the Constitution is not perfect. Even the late Senator Claro M. Recto said that our Constitution is a living document,” he said.

“We must adjust. When it was being written, there was no artificial intelligence yet. There are certain provisions that need to be updated in order for us to take advantage of the global market. This (initiative for Cha-cha) did not come out of thin air,” Salceda added. —LDF, GMA Integrated News

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