Last night, on our way to Megamall, H and I had an interesting discussion regarding the Charter change issue. Because of it, I've decided to get a copy of the Constitution, and educate myself about it so that I fully understand what all the fuss is all about. That way, I can say that I know and understand what the Constitution says, and am aware of my rights under it.
While H promised to provide me with a copy of the Constitution, I decided to do my own searching.
Going online, at a glance, I found a copy of the 1987 Constitution. Looking at Article XVII, Sections 1 and 2, which is the part of the Constitution regarding the Constitutional amendments and people's initiative, I find that it says as follows:
Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:
- The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or
- A constitutional convention.
The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this right.
The boldface is mine. I think it's pretty clear that there has to be a law crafted by Congress in order to set the guidelines for implementing a people's initiative. Unfortunately, since our esteemed (Hoch! Ptui!) Congressmen are more interested in issues such as increasing their pork barrel and engaging in endless probes, they never bothered to craft such a law. Without any enabling law, how can we push forward with a people's initiative.
It's also clear that the people's initiative covers only amendments to the Constitution, not a revision.
So what happens to the 4.5 million signatures supposedly collected by the Sigaw ng Bayan group?
The answer is the same as before, when back in 1997, the Supreme Court ruled on the signature campaign to revise the Constitution.
The law the Cha-Cha people wanted to use, Republic Act 6735, was ruled as "inadequate" as an instrument to amend the Constitution, according to the Supreme Court. In their decision, the Court states,
"Curiously, too, while R.A. No. 6735 exerted utmost diligence and care in providing for the details in the implementation of initiative and referendum on national and local legislation thereby giving them special attention, it failed, rather intentionally, to do so on the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution."
And thus, the Court ruled against the attempted people's intiative in 1997.
Can the Supreme Court reverse the ruling? That's possible, because the SC decision wasn't unanimous; in fact, current Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban was one of those who dissented. However, I'm under the impression that: one, there has to be a new argument against the ruling, which is different from the one used back in 1997; otherwise, what reason would the Court have in reversing its decision? Two, the Court will have to make a unanimous decsion in order to reverse the decision. This is the key, I think, considering that majority of the Court is now composed of GMA appointees, and, since GMA has personally given her support to the people's intiative, what will her appointees do? Will they act independently, or will they toe the party line, and decide according to their patron's wishes?
The country waits and watches.
Personally, I still think now is the wrong time to decide to amend the Constitution. Our politicians are selfish, arrogant and greedy. And we're leaving them, as the Constituent Assembly, in charge of revising the Constitution?
I think not.