Senators denounce Cha-cha ‘bribers’

(THE MANILA TIMES) TWO senators on Monday denounced the reported attempt by some Charter change (Cha-cha) proponents to bribe local government leaders into signing a petition to amend the Constitution.

“Our Constitution is not for sale,” Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos said in a statement.

“We denounce those allegedly bribing districts, LGUs (local government units), and potential signatories openly and shamelessly to agree to a people’s initiative,” Marcos said.

Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said it is “unethical and illegal to solicit signatures of constituents to petition for Charter change moves in exchange for P100, in the guise of supposed people’s initiative.”

“This practice clearly violates our laws and undermines the democratic process,” Estrada said.

He said the people’s initiative to amend the Charter “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,” Estrada said.

“The people’s trust in the democratic process must be protected and preserved,” he said.

Marcos said she learned that congressmen and local executives were asked to provide lists of beneficiaries, which could be their staff coordinators’ relatives.

“The Constitution requires that the petition must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters of every legislative district,” she said.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente “Joey” Salceda sees nothing wrong in initiating Charter change but says it has to be done long before the 2028 presidential election.

“The need for urgent revisions in the Constitution, particularly on the economic front, has long been the consensus in the House of Representatives,” Salceda said in a statement on Monday.

“The leadership of the President’s coalition, including the President’s own party, has also been devoted to the idea of Charter Change. As such, the political mass necessary for constitutional change is there,” he said.

Salceda said it is “natural and normal” for democracies to revise their constitutions “to suit the evolving needs of the times” and to adjust for conditions unforeseen by framers.

He said the United States Constitution, which he described as “the model constitution” for republics like the Philippines, was amended 27 times.

“In contrast, we have not amended the 1987 Constitution for almost 40 years now, despite having provisions that obviously require revision. In many ways, we are unnatural for the way we hold the 1987 Constitution as if it were unerring,” he said.

The House, Salceda said, “tried several times in the past to initiate” Cha-cha.

“Such attempts have languished in the Senate. Being nationally elected representatives of the people, it should be more encouraging for senators to heed the electorate’s call via people’s initiative. As such, I support ongoing efforts to initiate Charter change through the direct involvement of the voters,” he said.

Salceda believes it is better to introduce amendments to the Constitution long before the 2028 presidential elections to assure the public the changes are not designed to pave the way for extending the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“The time to do it is now when there is also enough time to do it before the 2025 midterm elections,” he said.

“There are constitutionally-provided processes of initiating Charter Change, and there is a process for opposing Charter Change. Let us go through the process, proponents and opponents alike,” he said.

Earlier, mayors from Albay expressed their support for a people’s initiative as a way to amend the Charter.