Press Release
June 4, 2006


BACOLOD CITY Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today doubted whether the administration-sponsored Charter Change will succeed without the support of the Catholic Church to which more than 80 percent of Filipinos belong.

Pimentel said even if Charter Change will overcome the Senate opposition, still its prospects of prospering are dim because of the strong resistance of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The minority leader brought the Senates anti-Cha Cha campaign to the sugarlandia when he addressed a multisectoral assembly here organized by Bishop Vicente Navarra of the Diocese of Bacolod.

Pimentel noted that the CBCP, like the Senate, is vigorously opposing Charter Change because it is being exploited by certain politicians to perpetuate themselves in power and because it is using means that do not conform to the Constitution.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. want Charter Change to cover up the misdeeds of the Arroyo administration. But it wont prosper because the Senate will not agree with the illegal proposal of the House of Representatives for the Senate and the House to jointly vote on the amendments to the Constitution, he said.

Bishop Navarra told the assembly that the Catholic Church is against Charter Change because it is not timely and it is using underhanded methods.

Pimentel compared Charter Change to a speeding train that has been thrown off the tracks because the engine has malfunctioned and the pilot has lost control.

He said the administration is now in a panic mode because the two methods it is pursuing Constituent Assembly and Peoples Initiative have both been derailed with zero chance of reaching the final destination.

The senators have stood their ground against the pro-administration congressmens proposal for a joint Senate-House voting on proposed amendments on the ground that this is unconstitutional.

Instead, the senators have insisted that the Senate and House vote separately on each and every amendment in keeping with the bicameral structure of Congress and with the constitutional mandate.

Besides, he said the threat of Speaker Jose de Venecia and company to go it alone and bypass the Senate in amending the Charter is nothing but a lot of braggadocio. To be able to do this, 195 signatures are needed equivalent to three-fourths of House membership. But so far not more than 180 signatures have been obtained, according to the House speaker.

Pimentel belittled the claim of the Cha Cha advocates the Sigaw ng Bayan Coalition that the verification of signatures gathered through peoples initiative is now complete and they are ready to formally petition the Commission on Elections to hold a national plebiscite on the proposal to form a unicameral parliamentary system.

But in a way he said this is a welcome move since this will open the way for the filing of a petition with the Supreme Court to declare the peoples initiative process as unconstitutional.

Pimentel argued that no peoples initiative can be validly undertaken because the Supreme Court had ruled in 1997 that there was no adequate law to govern the process of amending the Constitution through this method.

Moreover, he said delegates to the 1986 Constitutional Commission have made it clear that peoples initiative is intended only for minor or piecemeal amendments but not for revision of the Constitution to bring about a change in the system of government.

Pimentel said even the leaders of the business community have threatened to withdraw support for Charter Change after realizing the dangers of having a unicameral legislature in terms of weakening the system or checks and balance.

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