Privilege Speech: Defending The Sanctity Of Our Democratic Institutions



24 January 2024  


Senate of the Philippines

Defending The Sanctity Of Our Democratic Institutions

         Mister President, honorable members of this esteemed chamber:

         I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege. We find ourselves on the verge of a constitutional crisis, brought about by the audacious attempt to force a Charter change through a people’s initiative. 

         While the idea of empowering the people to participate in shaping the fundamental law of the land is noble, the manner in which this initiative is being pursued reeks of a blatant disregard for the delicate fabric of our democratic system.

         Sa umpisa pa lang, diskumpyado na. Ang dapat sana’y pangangalap ng pirma para ipetisyon ang pag-amyenda ng kasalukuyang Saligang Batas ay nabahiran ng pagdududa dahil sa napabalitang pamimigay ng pera sa kada pirma ng mga botante.

         While the call for change is a hallmark of a vibrant democracy, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to ensure that the public is well aware of the reasons behind such a monumental undertaking and the profound impact it will have on their lives.

         Before we embark on the journey of constitutional change, we must ask ourselves: Have we adequately informed the public about the reasons behind this call for Charter change? Do our constituents truly understand the implications of altering the very fabric of our constitutional framework? 

         Sagrado ang ating Konstitusyon. Hindi lang ito legal na dokumento, ito ang pinakamataas na batas ng ating bansa. Naglalaman ito ng mga karapatan at tungkulin nating lahat at nagtatakda ng mga limitasyon sa kapangyarihan ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan. 

         It is a social contract, a pact between the governed and the government that outlines the principles and values that shape our nation. Any attempt to amend this sacred document entails the informed and unequivocal consent of the people. 

         Sa naiulat kamakailan na survey na isinagawa ng OCTA Research noong nakaraang Disyembre, 73 percent ng mga respondents ang nagsabi na mas nais nilang resolbahin muna ang tumataas na presyo ng mga pangunahin bilihin at serbisyo kesa pagtuunan ang Cha-cha. 

         Based on the results of Tugon ng Masa survey of OCTA Research, controlling inflation was an urgent concern and this was followed by access to affordable food and the third most pressing matter was creating more jobs. Only one percent o isang porsyento lang ng mga respondents considered Cha-cha as a priority. 

         To forge ahead with a signature campaign without ensuring that our people are well aware of the reasons, implications, and potential consequences is to jeopardize the very essence of our democratic principles. The people have the right to know, to understand, and to deliberate on matters of such magnitude. 

         Mr. President, the move to overwhelm the Senate’s 24 votes with the House of Representatives’ over 300 votes is nothing short of an affront to the principles of bicameralism and the checks and balances that underpin our democratic framework.

         The idea that a simple joint vote could render our bicameral system meaningless is not only an insult to this august institution but a betrayal of the trust the people have placed in us.

         And the question that begs the answer is the timing of this audacious move. Pushing for Cha-cha at this time when mid-term elections are just around the corner is not only untimely but also a blatant disregard of the people’s mandate. Why does there seem to be a rush to tinker with our Constitution?

         May hinahabol ba tayong deadline? Are we to believe that such a monumental decision can be made without due consideration and thorough public discourse? The citizens of this nation deserve a transparent and accountable process, not a rushed attempt to push through changes that could have far-reaching consequences.

         Any attempt to undermine the independence and integrity of this Senate should be met with resolute opposition. We are the defenders of the people’s will, and we cannot allow maneuvers that undermine the very foundations of our democratic system.

         At habang paulit-ulit nating pinaglalaban ang ating soberanya sa nasasakupan nating karagatan laban sa nananakop, may mga nagnanais naman na luwagan ang mga probisyon ng ating Konstitusyon para payagan ang mga dayuhan na makapag-ari ng lupa ito sa ating bansa. 

         Such a move could water down or weaken the protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral lands which is enshrined under Article 12 on National Economy and Patrimony. Relaxing this provision would open up our resources to foreign corporations at the expense of protecting the rights of marginalized Filipinos.

         Let me state for the record, Mr. President, that I am not opposed to revisiting the provisions of our Charter especially if the proponents are only bent on amending economic provisions that are considered obsolete. But to ram Cha-cha down our throat is something I will stand against. 

         As stated by the first woman associate justice of the Supreme Court, Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, in her closing remarks during the final session of the Constitutional Commission on October 15, 1986, “We must be ready to defend and uphold this fundamental law with our lives, if necessary, so that never again will it be trampled upon and desecrated by men of evil designs.”

         Let us stand united in our commitment to uphold the principles of bicameralism, checks, and balances, and the democratic ideals that have guided our nation through its history. The people are watching, and we owe it to them to defend the sanctity of our democratic institutions.

         Thank you.