Press Release
March 29, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said Malacañang s principal motive in pushing for Charter Change is to ensure the political survival of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as he accused the Palace of hiding this from the people through outright deceit.

Pimentel said that while barangay and other local government officials were instructed by the Palace to take up the adoption of a unicameral parliamentary system of government during last Saturdays barangay assemblies, they were also told to avoid by all means any discussion of the term of the President.

What conclusion can we draw from that? By all means Charter Change should take place but without prejudicing the continued stay of Gloria in power, the minority leader said. All these things they are doing now is under the guise of Charter Change but mainly directed to ensure Glorias survival.

He said this instruction was given by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to a select group of barangay and other local government officials during a meeting held before the holding of the one-day barangay assembly.

Pimentel said the administrations plan to allow President Arroyo to stay in power even after a parliamentary system is put in place in 2007 and allow her to complete her term in 2010 is embodied in the Transitory Provisions which are part of the proposed constitutional amendments that the registered voters are being asked to endorse through the system of peoples initiative by affixing their signatures in a petition to be submitted to the Commission on Elections.

The petition contains this question: Do you approve the amendment (to) Articles VI and VII of the 1987 Constitution, changing the form of government from the present bicameral presidential to a unicameral parliamentary system of government, in order to achieve greater efficiency, simplicity and economy in government and providing an Article XVIII as transitory provisions for the orderly shift from one system to another?

Pimentel said it is unfair for the people not to be told what the Transitory Provisions are all about because this will not only authorize President Arroyo to keep her post but also invest her with more powers despite the prevailing public sentiments for her resignation or removal from office.

He argued that the move to amend the 1987 Constitution through peoples initiative is legally flawed and constitutionally impermissible for the following reasons:

First, there is no enabling law to sanction the holding of a peoples initiative to change the Constitution.

Second, it is not constitutional for public officials to ride on the process of peoples initiative.

And third, the system of peoples initiative was intended by framers of the Constitution only for simple amendments but not to wholesale revision of the fundamental law, much less for changing the system of government.

Pimentel stressed that public officials should have no hand in spearheading Charter Change through peoples initiative because this is exclusively reserved by the Constitution to be exercised directly by the people themselves.

Otherwise, if they convert the peoples initiative into an official initiative, which is funded, directed and orchestrated by officials of the government, this will remove that particular manner of amending the Constitution from the exclusive domain of the people and will now be absorbed into an official act of government, he said.

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