Press Release
February 16, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the move to amend the 1987 Constitution by peoples initiative will not prosper if Malacañang , congressional and local government officials will act as sponsors and organizers of this political activity.

Pimentel said the involvement of Interior and Local Government Secretary-Designate Ronaldo Puno, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. and the governors and other local government executives will defeat the constitutional intent that peoples initiative to directly amend the Constitution should be undertaken by the ordinary people themselves.

He said the report that Puno convened a two-day meeting of regional, provincial and city directors of the Department of Interior and Local Government to map out their role in the peoples initiative for Charter Change betrays the fact this endeavor is the brainchild of the Arroyo government.

I wish to remind him (Puno) that this process is reserved for the people. That is why it is called peoples initiative, as distinguished from the official initiative of changing the Constitution, which is done through either of two ways one of Congress, acting as a constituent assembly or by a Constitutional Convention, the minority leader said.

Pimentel expressed dismay that the Palace has mobilized the provincial governors and city-municipal mayors to get the peoples initiative process moving in their respective areas.

He belittled the move of the governors and mayors to spearhead the solicitation of 5 to 6 million signatures to be used in a petition to amend the Constitution to be filed with the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court.

Pimentel said such efforts will be an exercise in futility because the petition is in danger of being thrown out by election and judicial authorities in view of the fact that public officials, from the President down to the local government executives have no business acting as prime movers behind the peoples initiative for Charter Change.

The third method of amending the Constitution is reserved by the Constitution for the people. So the intervention of government officials, even by the local officials is not necessary because that will destroy the essence of the peoples initiative as a means of amending the Constitution, which is exclusively reserved for the people, he explained.

Should the governors and mayors insist on playing a lead role in such process, Pimentel said it should no longer be called peoples initiative but politicians initiative.

Pimentel cited two other reasons why the peoples initiative to modify the Constitution will not succeed.

First, the peoples initiative cannot be validly used for the shift from presidential to a parliamentary system and removal of the so-called protectionist economic provisions of the Constitution which will entail a major revision of the fundamental law. The Constitution envisions the peoples initiative to apply only to simple or minor amendments.

Second, the Supreme Court in 1997 already held that there was still no valid law to implement the system of peoples initiative for amending the Charter. The existing law on initiatives and referendum, Republic Act 6735, covers only initiative to change national and local laws.

Pimentel said that since peoples initiative is a private effort of the citizens, no taxpayers money can be legally appropriated for such activity.

It should be understood by those concerned that it is illegal for public funds to be used for or to back up a peoples initiative, he said.

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