By Wilnard Bacelonia
MANILA – Senators warned on Monday local government units (LGUs) not to engage in any bribery to force a people’s initiative in pushing for Charter Change (Cha-cha).
In a Viber message to reporters, Senator Imee Marcos said she denounces anyone who will distribute money in exchange for people’s signatures.
“Our Constitution is not for sale. We denounce those allegedly bribing districts, LGUs and potential signatories openly and shamelessly to agree to a people’s initiative,” she said.
Opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives earlier reported to have received information about mayors being asked to give PHP100 to every constituent in exchange for signing a petition for a people’s initiative.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada described this move as “unethical and illegal”, saying it “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,” Estrada said in a separate statement.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said earlier mayors in his province were told in a meeting that the Constitution will be amended through people’s initiative and they were also given funds to use in securing signatures from their constituents.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said it is better to initiate Cha-change long before the 2028 national elections so that the public can be assured that this is no attempt to extend President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s term.
He said the need for urgent revisions in the Constitution, particularly its economic revisions, has long been the consensus in the House of Representatives.
“As such, the political mass necessary for constitutional change is there,” he said. “It is natural and normal for democracies to revise their Constitutions, to suit the evolving needs of the times, as well as to adjust for conditions that framers did not foresee.”
Salceda said the Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times, with the first amendments being made just months after the Constitution went into effect.
He said this is in contrast to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which has not been amended for almost 40 years but “obviously requires revision.”
“In many ways, we are unnatural for the way we hold the 1987 Constitution as if it were unerring,” he said.
He said the House has tried several times in the past to initiate Cha-cha but such attempts have languished in the Senate.
“Being nationally elected representatives of the people, it should be more encouraging to senators to heed the electorate’s call via people’s Initiative,” he said. “The time to do it is now, when there is also enough time to do it before the 2025 midterm elections.” (with a report from Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)