Press Release
April 8, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines outright repudiation of the administration-sponsored Charter Change has dealt a fatal blow on the political exercise that primarily aims to save the scandal-rocked Arroyo presidency from crumbling.

The 122-member CBCP, in a pastoral letter signed by its president, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, warned that the move to amend the Constitution and pave the way for the shift to a parliamentary system was dangerously unclear and open to manipulation by groups and self-serving interests and that vigilance, education, (and) principled opposition may be necessary steps to take.

The anti-Charter Change statement of the CBCP puts the last nail into the coffin of Cha-Cha efforts of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., Secretary Ronaldo Puno et al., the minority leader said.

Doubting whether the Charter Change campaign could withstand the deadly impact of the CBCPs pastoral statement, Pimentel said: Not being God, there will be no resurrection for them on (Eastern) Sunday. Good riddance.

The CBCP bewailed that signatures for Charter Change are being collected without adequate information, discussion and education, saying this is not conducive to the kind of informed participation that such fundamental changes demand.

Instead of being enlightened about the complexities and variations of the proposed parliamentary system, the people are merely given general and sweeping promises of political stability and reform that will automatically come in with a new politicals system, the CBCP said.

Pimentel maintained that the real motive of Charter Change is to divert public attention away from the controversies hounding the Arroyo presidency.

He said the President and her political lieutenants have advanced the target date for the completion of Charter Change by holding a plebiscite on proposed amendments in June and convening an Interim Parliament by July to conform to their hidden agenda.

Minority congressmen plan to file a new impeachment case against the President upon the opening of the next regular session of Congress in July.

Understandably, Mrs. Arroyo and her allies are trying to beat the opposition to the draw by railroading Charter Change through peoples initiative.

Pimentel said the efforts to amend the Constitution by direct action of the people will not prosper because of the 1997 ruling of the Supreme Court that there is no enabling law yet for peoples initiative.

Reacting to the claim of the pro-Cha Cha Sigaw ng Bayan Coalition that they have already solicited more than 8 million signatures nationwide, he said the number of signatures will not matter for as long as the appropriate law has not been enacted by Congress.

In a democracy, all actions of government officials must be anchored on law. If there is no law, then they can dream all they want and get 100 percent all over the nation. Instead of 6 million signatures, they can have 30 million. For all I care, still that wouldnt make it legal, the lone senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel cited two other reasons why the ongoing peoples initiative for Charter Change is illegal and unconstitutional.

First, the direct involvement of public officials, composed of congressmen, Cabinet members and local executives, in Charter Change defeats the constitutional intent that the entire process should be the initiative of the people, and not of the government or politicians.

Second, the plan to overhaul the system of government which will entail wholesale revision of the Constitution is contrary to the constitutional mandate that peoples initiative should be used only for simple nor minor amendments of the Charter.

Echoing the CBCPs criticism about the lack of transparency in the bid to gather signatures for Charter Change, Pimentel accused the amendment proponents of deliberately withholding from the public the information about salient and sensitive features of exercise such as President Arroyos continued stay in office even after a parliamentary system comes into being, the abolition of Congress by replacing it with an Interim Parliament, and the automatic membership of incumbent senators and congressmen in the Interim Parliament.

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