Press Release
May 16, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiagos alleged claim that the Senate will be gone by July was part of Malacañang s psy-war tactics to prevent the collapse of Charter Change due to insurmountable obstacles, including legal infirmity, and lack of support from the Senate, Bro. Mike Velarde and the Catholic bishops.

Pimentel said Malacañang is obviously using Santiago to prop up the sagging support for Charter Change but added the Palace is hallucinating if it thinks that her decision to back up a Constituent Assembly will persuade the senators to toe the administration line on the issue.

Malacañang is making a mountain out of molehill, the minority leader said of the Palaces enthusiastic reaction to Santiagos pronouncement that she is now supporting the convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution and draw up the blueprint of a unicameral parliamentary system.

Pimentel said what is most striking about Santiagos statement is that she premised her support for Constituent Assembly on a big IF.

Santiago said her support is conditional on a ruling of the Supreme Court that it will be constitutional for proposed amendments to be voted upon jointly by the Senate and House of Representatives.

If the Ilongga senator has imposed that condition, Pimentel said that is clearly because she was one of the 22 senators who signed a Senate resolution that amendments to the Constitution should be voted upon separately by the two chambers of Congress in conformity with the letter and intent of the Constitution. Of the 23 senators, only Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. was unable to vote on the resolution as he was in the United States for a medical treatment at that time.

The minority leader said that given the qualification made by Santiago, a recognized constitutional expert, it can be safely assumed that she has not totally turned her back on the said Senate resolution.

Pimentel pointed out that Santiago is hard put supporting Charter Change by peoples initiative because she was the petitioner in the precedent 1997 Supreme Court ruling, in the Santiago vs. Commission on Elections case, invalidating the move to amend the Constitution in order to lift the constitutional ban against the reelection of the incumbent president due to the absence of an adequate enabling law on peoples initiative.

Miriam took so many qualifications. She said if the constitutional obstacles are hurdled through a ruling of the Supreme Court, then the Senate will already be a bygone institution by July. But that is not how things will materialize, he said.

Pimentel said there is a good reason to believe that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies are falling back on the Constituent Assembly mode because the move to amend the Charter by peoples initiative is faltering. He said even administration political strategists very much doubt that the Supreme Court will give its imprimatur to peoples initiative by reversing its 1997 decision on the issue.

He also observed that up to now the administration-initiated resolution to convert Congress into a Constituent Assembly is still short of the required 195 signatures despite the fantastic claim of Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. that the shift to a unicameral parliamentary system is irreversible.

Pimentel said he was told by Cebu City Rep. Eduardo Gullas that many congressmen will not go along with the proposal of amending the Constitution by ourselves because we will be mocked by the people if that happens.

Assuming that the required number of signatures for the resolution on Constituent Assembly will be obtained and even exceeded, Pimentel said that still will have no effect.

I dont think that will bear fruit because for them to do that, they will have to make sure they have some constitutional and legal basis. Clearly, they dont have that, he said.

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