Marcos: Why the row? Senate to lead Cha-cha

Marcos: Why the row? Senate to lead Cha-cha

/ 05:50 AM February 21, 2024

‘GET IT DONE’ President Marcos (center, seated) leads the awards ceremony for this year’s Ani ng Dangal honorees at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila on Tuesday, where he also spoke to reporters on how he wishes the Charter change process to go. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

‘GET IT DONE’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (center, seated) leads the awards ceremony for this year’s Ani ng Dangal honorees at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila on Tuesday, where he also spoke to reporters on how he wishes the Charter change process to go. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he was baffled by all the political noise on the proposal to amend the Constitution, saying that this had already been settled “months ago” during his discussions and consultations with the two leaders of Congress.

Mr. Marcos reiterated that the Senate would be taking the lead in crafting the proposed Charter changes.


“I always said the Senate will take the lead. The Senate is taking the lead, and between the two houses, they will come to an agreement, then that will be the way we’ll do it,” he said.


“But I don’t know why there is such [bickering]. It’s really a storm in a teacup because this has been decided long ago [by] the leaders of both houses,” he said on the sidelines of the 16th Ani ng Dangal awards at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila on Tuesday afternoon.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said last month that the President had directed the Senate to take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution.

He said Mr. Marcos gave the order after meeting with congressional leaders last Jan. 11.

‘Doing it quietly’

In an interview, the President also sounded pleased by developments in the two chambers, with the separate filing of identical measures in the Senate and the House of Representatives that seek to relax the economic restrictions in the Constitution.


He dismissed suggestions for him to intervene between the Senate and the House, whose members have been squabbling over the preferred method to open the Constitution to amendments.

“Maybe I don’t proclaim but I’ve often been asked to intervene—I have long been talking with both chambers. But, you know, what for me is more important… is to get it done,” he noted, adding that he has been overseeing the efforts to change the Charter “quietly.”

“So, that’s what we’re doing—we’re doing it quietly. We do it… without any fuss,” he said.

Mr. Marcos is supporting moves to amend several economic provisions in the Constitution to attract foreign direct investments.

“We just want to get those amendments incorporated into the Constitution to improve the chances of investment and upskilling of our people,” he said.

No withdrawal yet

On the ongoing people’s initiative (PI) to amend the 1987 Constitution, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said its local offices have yet to receive any filled-out form from those who intend to pull out their signatures.

READ: Zubiri bares plan to amend rules for Cha-cha ‘Senate assembly’

“We have not received any completed withdrawal form. Our local Comelec offices also have not forwarded any report of people who are withdrawing their signatures,” Comelec Chair George Erwin Garcia told reporters on Tuesday.

On Feb. 14, the Comelec en banc approved the issuance of a withdrawal form, which would be made available in local Comelec offices for people desiring to revoke their signatures in the PI petition.

“Comelec’s acceptance of withdrawal forms is for recording purposes only and shall not be construed as a formal action by the commission on the signature sheets/petition for PI,” the poll body noted.

George Erwin Garcia

George Erwin Garcia

The issuance of the forms was in response to calls by a member of the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation for the poll body to do something about reported pleas from signatories who wanted to withdraw their signatures.

Easy to understand

But for former Ako Bicol Party list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., one of the petitioners for the PI to amend the Constitution, those who signed in support of Charter change (Cha-cha) fully understood the content of the signature sheet before agreeing to its terms.

“When the signature sheets—which contained the one-line proposed amendment to our Constitution—were distributed, they were explained to the people at the barangay level. The content of the signature sheet was translated in Tagalog, and in our case in the Bicol Region, translated to Bicolano,” he said in an interview on ANC on Monday.

“They understood [its contents]. So I think there’s no technicality. They didn’t have a hard time understanding what we meant by joint voting,” Garbin noted, addressing allegations that the PI signature sheets used highly technical language that made it challenging for ordinary individuals to comprehend.

The current people’s initiative seeks to amend Article XVII, Section 1(1) of the Constitution on how the Charter itself may be amended by Congress with a vote of three-fourths of all its members.

The amendment specifies that this vote be made “jointly, at the call of the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

If the people’s initiative succeeds, senators feared that it would lead to the 24 votes of the Senate being overwhelmed by the more than 300 members of the House of Representatives should Congress jointly amend the Charter.

Enough signatures

People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (Pirma) lead convener Noel Oñate earlier said they were not affected by the issuance of the withdrawal forms, noting that they still have more than enough signatures to push Charter change.

“We are not bothered; in fact, we’re even happy because this shows that we are living in a democracy, and those who wish to withdraw their signatures can do so,” he said.

He noted that even if one out of their 10 signatories would take back their support for the PI, they had “enough buffer” and would still have the signatures equivalent to 17 percent of registered voters.

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This would be beyond the 8 million signatures or 12 percent of the total 68 million voters needed for a people’s initiative petition.

The group, however, was not certain if the signatures had already reached at least 3 percent of registered voters of each of the 254 districts across the country, which is another requirement to compel the Comelec to hold a plebiscite. —WITH A REPORT FROM Dexter Cabalza

TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, charter change, Senate

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