What Went Before: Past Charter-change attempts
The 1987 Constitution provides three modes for proposing amendments or revisions: by Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its members; by constitutional convention where delegates are elected; or through a people’s initiative upon direct petition of the required number of voters.
Attempts at amending the Charter have been made since the Ramos administration, but these never took off.
In 1997, the People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma) pushed for Charter change by way of a signature campaign or people’s initiative. It proposed a shift to a parliamentary system of government and the lifting of term limits on elected officials, including then President Fidel V. Ramos. The opposition charged Ramos of being behind the campaign, but he denied this.
The Supreme Court en banc unanimously shot down Pirma’s initiative, with eight justices saying there was no enabling law for it, and six others citing that the group’s petition was defective.
Then President Joseph Estrada also pushed for Charter change, which he called Concord, or Constitutional Correction for Development. Estrada sought to allow foreigners to own land, public utilities and media outfits, but this met strong opposition from the Catholic Church and other sectors, leading him to shelve the proposal in January 2000.
Under her administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created a Consultative Commission led by Jose Abueva that recommended a unicameral parliamentary form of government, decentralization of the national government and more powers to local government units.
A people’s initiative called Sigaw ng Bayan was also launched during her administration, but this was rejected by the Supreme Court in October 2006, citing its failure to comply with the basic requirement that the “initiative must be directly proposed by the people.” Voting
8-7, the high court noted that the proponents did not show the people the full text of the proposed amendments before asking them to sign the “signature sheet.” The tribunal said the “omission” was “fatal.”
Two months later, then Speaker Jose de Venecia began moves to convene the House into a constituent assembly, but it was met with heavy opposition. In December 2006, in the face of a firestorm of protests, Arroyo dropped her support for the proposal, saying, in a statement, “Philippine democracy will always find the proper time and opportunity for Charter reform at a time when the people deem it ripe and needful and in the manner they deem proper.”
In November 2008, then Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. drafted Senate Resolution No. 10 convening Congress into a constituent assembly to establish a federal system of government. It was backed by 16 senators but never took off.
In September 2011, Sen. Franklin Drilon said both Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte had concurred with his proposal to have both chambers vote separately on bills involving Charter change, which would only touch on economic provisions.
President Aquino, however, reiterated his position that constitutional amendments were not a priority of his administration.—Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquirer Archives
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