Press Release
January 9, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the plan of the governors and mayors who are known Arroyo supporters, to launch a peoples initiative to adopt major changes in the Constitution, including a shift to a parliamentary system of government, is not constitutionally feasible and is therefore a mere exercise in futility.

Pimentel said that while the adoption of a parliamentary system, as well as a federal structure of government, is a step in the right direction, it is in danger of being rejected by the people because of the Palace-inspired proposals, embodied in the Transitory Provisions, that will allow President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stay in office until 2010, scrap the 2007 elections and allow incumbent senators and congressmen to automatically become members of the unicameral parliament.

The minority leader cautioned the local chief executives against allowing themselves to be used by the President to perpetuate herself in power in the light of the strong peoples clamor for her resignation in order to bring back political and economic stability in the country.

Im afraid the advocates of peoples initiative among the local government officials will just be wasting resources, time and energies if they will proceed with their plan without ascertaining the constitutional and legal basis of their move and without getting the public pulse first, Pimentel said.

The minority leader argued that a peoples initiative is applicable only to minor Charter amendments, like modifying the terms of elective officials and increasing the membership of the Senate and House of Representatives or expanding the list of public officials who should be subject to review and confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

However, he said that since the local officials are backing the administration move to change the system of government, practically revising the Constitution, the job must be entrusted instead to a Constitutional Convention or Congress acting as constituent assembly.

Pimentel said the 1987 Constitution limits the scope of the system of initiative and referendum to simple amendments because it would be impossible to conduct an overall review of the Constitution through the direct action of the entire Filipino electorate.

He said the record of proceedings of the 1986 Constitutional Commission states: The committee members felt that this system of initiative should be limited to amendments to the Constitution and should not extend to the revision of the entire Constitution.

Aside from this, Pimentel pointed out that the Supreme Court in a 1997 decision, held that Republic Act 6735, the law on peoples initiative, was inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution.

In the same decision, the high tribunal ruled that the Comelec should be permanently enjoined from entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system.

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