Cha-cha out of the woodwork again despite past failure

Cha-cha out of the woodwork again despite past failure, lack of people’s trust

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 11:08 AM January 24, 2024

Chacha out of the woodwork again despite past failure, lack of people’s trust


MANILA, Philippines — Attempts to change the 1987 Constitution have persisted since 1997, all ending up in failure because most people didn’t want it, according to a framer of the historic post-martial law Charter.

Simply put, people don’t trust the move, according to Christian Monsod, lawyer and former chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).


Monsod, a leading member of the commission that drafted the current Constitution, said in a number of TV and radio interviews that he had counted at least six attempts to change the 1987 Constitution, which had been completed on Oct. 12, 1986 and ratified in a plebiscite on Feb. 2, 1987.


He said the motives for Charter change (Cha-cha) had been suspect and perceived as “self-serving” by most Filipinos because the Constitution itself was not the roadblock obstructing progress.

To address socio-economic problems, Monsod told ANC that it should be the other way around—implement the Constitution well.

Maria Ela Atienza, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines Diliman, shared the view. She said attempts to revise the Constitution, or some of its provisions, have lacked popular support.

READ: Why — or why not — Cha-cha?

According to a March 2023 Pulse Asia survey, Filipinos are divided on Cha-cha with 46 percent saying that the Constitution should not be changed and 41 percent agreeing with proposals to tinker with the Charter.

READ: More Filipinos still oppose Charter change, but support for it grew – Pulse Asia


In September 2022, the numbers were much different with 56 percent of respondents disagreeing with Cha-cha and 31 percent agreeing. Pulse Asia acknowledged increased support for Cha-cha in 2023.

According to Atienza, all Cha-cha attempts since the administration of the late Fidel Ramos “were mainly top-down, even if they try to involve the people through people’s initiatives and signature campaigns.”

She told that ever since, there has not been an active and genuine discussion, especially with the people, to explain the relevance of Cha-cha to their lives.

Bar graph

Graphic by ED LUSTAN /

The first Cha-cha attempt took place in 1997 when the People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma) proposed a shift to a parliamentary system of government. It wanted to have the ban on reelection lifted, too.

READ: Pirma is back: Charter change drive on air, on ground

But its signature campaign was not enough to change the Charter as the Supreme Court (SC) decided that the people’s initiative campaign was aimed at revising the entire Constitution and not just seeking an amendment.

Section 2, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution provides that amendments may be proposed by the people through initiative. A petition has to be supported by at least 12 percent of all registered voters, with at least three percent from every legislative district.

READ: Senate manifesto nixes people’s initiative, warns of no-el scenario

It was during the short-lived presidency of Joseph Estrada when changes in economic provisions, especially the ones that supposedly impede foreign investments, had been proposed by the Constitutional Correction for Development.

READ: When a Cha-cha ad backfires

Then in the presidency of the late Benigno Aquino III, proposed changes in the economic provisions came out of the woodwork again with a resolution being filed at the House of Representatives.

Artcile XVII of the Constitution

Graphic by ED LUSTAN /

The reason now being cited to justify Cha-cha is an echo from the past.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said he saw the need to look at changes required in the Charter to make the Philippines more enticing to investors.

READ: Bongbong Marcos asks Senate to lead review of economic provisions

But for Monsod, it is the investment climate, not the Constitution, that needed changing, pointing to either poor or nonexistent infrastructure, unreliable regulation and corruption as the main reasons investors are wary of coming to the Philippines.

He said that if Cha-cha is indeed needed to address socio-economic problems, there should have been a mention of it in the Marcos administration’s Philippine Development Plan, which outlines the country’s path to progress.

Republic Act (RA) No. 11659, he said, already allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of public services, while manufacturing companies can be 100 percent foreign-owned, too.


When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president for nine years, Cha-cha was attempted through People’s Initiative (PI), Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), and Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

According to the website of Jose Abueva, who led Arroyo’s consultative commission, it was proposed that the Philippines shift to federalism, but Arroyo later decided to instead push for a parliamentary government that would be unicameral, or a single legislature.

Constitutional amendments as proposed by various presidents

Constitutional amendments by each president

Graphic by ED LUSTAN /

Arroyo’s PI, coined “Sigaw ng Bayan”, was thumbed down by the Supreme Court which said the movement was “propelled by deceptively gathered signatures.” Con-Ass and Con-Con lacked sufficient support and was met with outrage.

READ: Cha-cha foes slam TV ad: ‘Distasteful wordplay’

READ: Why not a two-stage Charter change process?

Years later, during the rule of Rodrigo Duterte as president, Cha-cha attempts failed, too. This included a push for a draft “Bayanihan Constitution” which Atienza said didn’t get the support of Duterte’s economic team because it would be too expensive.

“The House of Representatives passed their own [draft] version, not the draft Bayanihan Constitution, but the Senate did not show any interest,” she said, stressing that for Cha-cha to succeed, genuine popular support was a must.

Clarity in proposals and unity by the legislative and executive branches of government are required as well, she said.


Monsod said in some of the attempts, people saw selfish motives like a proposal to grant authoritarian powers to the president, sync the Bill of Rights with the Anti-Terrorism Act and allow elected officials to stay in power for as long as they want.

The 1987 Constitution limits the president and vice president to a single six-year, non-renewable term.

After Marcos Sr., Arroyo was the longest-serving president, staying in power for nine years but this was not the result of Cha-cha, but a Supreme Court ruling that allowed her to run for a regular six-year term as president after serving three years as replacement of Estrada following his ouster for massive corruption.

“There are sound arguments for term extensions and lifting of term limits as shown in other countries, [but] the main concern in the Philippines is the lack of trust in politicians,” said Atienza.

“It is assumed that Filipino politicians only want to propose these for their own selfish interests and not for the good of the people,” she said.

“Historically, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. changed the Constitution to support his term extension, martial law, and ‘constitutional authoritarianism’,” Atienza added.

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As pointed out by the UP Department of Political Science, “constitutional change is not the ‘silver bullet’ or the holy elixir to cure our country’s problems.”

“It is not a panacea to remedy our socio-economic ills or the only means to accomplish our national desires and aspirations,” it said last year.

TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, charter change, Christian Monsod, INQFocus

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