Press Release
April 15, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the Arroyo administrations pledge to be transparent before the Filipino people in pursuing Charter Change is nothing but a hypocritical gesture meant to appease the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and other sectors that have criticized the deceptive and haphazard manner by which it is soliciting signatures for the petition to amend the 1987 Constitution through the system of peoples initiative.

From the start, Pimentel said the Charter Change drive sponsored by the administration has suffered from lack of transparency but has been characterized instead by deception and confusion.

The hidden but real agenda behind Charter Change is to ensure the political survival of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the face of unresolved question about her legitimacy. But the administration is trying to foist Charter Change upon the people by hoodwinking them into believing the mess the country finds itself in is due to a defective system of government and not due to the bungling of its leaders, Pimentel said.

He accused the administration of misleading the people by disclaiming any role in the signature campaign despite the fact that field officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government are the ones distributing the signature forms which were printed with the use of public funds and facilities.

Pimentel said the administration and its lackeys have lost their sense of shame and decency by offering all kinds of come-ons or bribery to the barangay residents in the form of cash, donation of rice, grocery items, Philhealth cards and pork barrel projects to persuade them to affix their names in the signature form.

Citing feedbacks from barangays all over the country, Pimentel said the campaigners of Charter Change, including administration politicians and representatives of non-government organizations, are forcing village residents to fill up the signature form oftentimes without bothering to discuss what it is all about.

Worse, he said the mayors, barangay chairmen and other local executives are being threatened by DILG field officials that the Internal Revenue Allotment of their respective local government units will be withheld by the national government if they could not deliver the quota of signatures by registered voters in their areas.

In charging that Charter Change is being promoted through a strategy of deception, Pimentel said the people are not being told about important details of the constitutional amendments being sought by the administration.

For instance, the Cha Cha proponents and campaigners have been instructed not to touch on the term of President Arroyo, or more specifically, the proposal to allow her to stay in office even if the a parliamentary system is already in place, exercising undiminished, if not expanded powers, until the year 2010, Pimentel said.

He said the people are likewise not being enlightened about the plan to establish a so-called Interim Parliament which shall be composed of incumbent senators, congressmen and Cabinet members and which shall exist until members of a regular Parliament are elected into office.

Instead, Pimentel said the people are presented only with a general but vague statement or proposition which reads: Do you approve of the amendment to Article VI and VII of the 1987 Constitution, changing the form of government from the present bicameral presidential to a unicameral parliamentary system and providing Article XVIII or transitory provisions for the orderly shift from one system to the other?

He said the administration and its political lackeys vowed to be transparent only after realizing that the Charter Change is in danger of being thrown off the tracks and falling into the cliff specially after the influential CBCP strongly criticized the timing and haste with which the political exercise is being carried out.

In a pastoral statement, the CBCP denounced that the administration-backed Charter Change was dangerously unclear and open to manipulation by groups with self-serving interest, and that vigilance, education and principled opposition may be necessary steps to take.

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