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First things first in Cha-cha

February 04, 2011 22:40:00
Philippine Daily Inquirer

I CANNOT agree more with former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban that there is yet “[n]o priority for Cha-cha,” for the simple reason that the solution to our country’s problems is good governance, not Charter change. (Inquirer, 1/23/11) It’s true, our Constitution is imperfect, just like that of any other democratic society. It’s so imperfect the sheer interest of good governance demands that it be urgently amended. I may sound a bit ambiguous or paradoxical, but the following considerations should be able to clarify my point.

There are three modes or methods for proposing amendments to, or the revision of, our Constitution: (1) by Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its members; (2) by constitutional convention; or (3) through people’s initiative upon direct petition of the required number of voters. Congress may either call a constitutional convention by two-thirds vote of all its members, or toss the question to call such convention to the electorate in an election by a majority vote of all its members (in case neither the two-thirds or three-fourths vote is mustered).

Unfortunately, however, all of these modes have their ironic infirmities. The first two appear to have been designed not as much for the bicameral legislature that we have today as for a unicameral one, such us under Marcos’ 1973 charter. Allegedly due to oversight, the 1987 charter framers omitted an important provision in the 1935 Constitution (also with a bicameral legislature), which requires the two chambers of Congress, (meaning the Senate and House of Representatives) to “vote separately in joint session assembled.” Isn’t this the crucial imperfection that has caused the much ballyhooed, yet futile, controversies between our senators and congressmen in several past congresses? Such controversies are surely bound to recur as vainly when fresh debates on Cha-cha resume now or in the future. On the other hand, the people’s initiative mode lacks the required enabling law.

And so, as things are, I am afraid we may never be able to change the present Charter except by extra-constitutional means—such as what Cory did in 1987. But then that would be regarded with extreme repugnance by the whole nation at this time.

Which brings me to my thesis. There may indeed be no need for Cha-cha now, but sooner or later that need will doubtless come. In the interim, as a measure of good governance, P-Noy should begin cracking his political whip in the present Congress toward the urgent passage of the long-overdue enabling law for the people’s initiative mode of Cha-cha. This mode may then be equally and urgently used to remove the present imperfections of the first two methods as earlier highlighted. Then, only then—when the real need arises—may we pursue a Cha-cha that is truly constitutional and hassle-free.

—RUDY L. CORONEL,

rudycoronel2004@yahoo.com

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