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More Pinoys oppose amendment of Constitution, says Pulse Asia

Senators on Monday warned the administration against forcing the amendment of the Constitution and federalism on the nation after the latest Pulse Asia poll showed that 67 percent of Filipinos opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s priority political enterprise.

Conducted from June 15 to 21, the poll found that 67 percent of the 1,800 adult respondents opposed amending the Constitution now, a 3-percentage-point increase from 64 percent in March.

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About three in five, or 62 percent, rejected a shift to federalism, down 4 percentage points from 66 percent three months ago.

Majorities across geographic areas and socioeconomic classes, except in Mindanao, disapproved of the efforts to amend the Constitution and ditch the presidential system.

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Among those who disapproved of amending the Constitution, 37 percent said the Charter should not be amended now or at any other time, a 5-point increase from 32 percent in March, while 30 percent said they were open to amendment sometime in the future, down from 32 percent in March.

Support for amendment fell from 23 percent in March to 18 percent in June, while the undecided barely changed from 13 percent to 14 percent.

Risking backlash

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the administration would risk a backlash from the people if it imposed the scheme on them despite their disapproval.

“We hope they don’t test the patience of the people by forcing Cha-cha, or the administration’s approval rating may fall further and their candidates may taste defeat in the coming elections,” Pangilinan said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said both houses of Congress should take the people’s sentiments into account, and blamed the rising opposition to amending the Constitution on lawmakers who planned to use the enterprise to suspend next year’s midterm elections and stay in power.

“The survey only confirms that, even if Congress rushes the procedure and passes a new Charter that will pave the way for a federal form of government, people will reject it,” Drilon said.

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Hence, he said, there is no reason to rush the amendment of the Constitution. Instead, Congress should focus on more pressing problems of the country, he said.

Sen. Grace Poe spoke against railroading the amendment of the Constitution and said the draft federal Charter submitted to Congress by the President’s consultative committee must be thoroughly studied and put through intense debate so that lawmakers could make an informed choice.

‘No popular clamor’

“I will block any Cha-cha express, especially one driven by people with expiring terms, and fueled by selfish interest,” Poe said.

There is no “popular clamor” for a new Constitution or any proof that a new one could solve the country’s problems, she said.

Sen. Joel Villanueva raised a similar concern.

“If it will not address our most urgent problems, like poverty, then we should not pursue it. We need facts to support the argument that Charter change is what we need right now,” Villanueva said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would listen to his colleagues first, but added that the Senate must remain independent.

“The Senate was created to be independent, impartial and fair but courageous. We are supposed to withstand presidential power and the waves of public opinion,” he said.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he expected the administration to step up pressure on lawmakers, but stressed the process could not be rushed.

House priority

In the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said the chamber would make amending the Constitution its top priority and “step up a massive information campaign” to educate the people on federalism.

“We are optimistic that, understanding the need for this shift in our system of government, the Filipinos will ultimately embrace federalism,” Garcia told reporters.

She said the House would not give up on Charter change because “this is very much part of the platform of the President along with his fight against the drug problem, as well as corruption.”

Opposition Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan said the administration’s insistence on amending the Constitution “reek[ed] of arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of the poor already burdened by high cost of living and dying [in] a fake war against illegal drugs.”

“Forcing the issue of Charter change foments discord and creates political instability that compounds the economic crisis the administration created,” Villarin said. —With a report from Inquirer Research

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Charter change, federalism, Pulse Asia, survey
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