[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 12 December 2006 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Tue Dec 12 10:51:41 PHT 2006

Newsbriefs 12 December 2006 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan



Arroyo allies retreat (Inquirer) 

UNDER FIRE from various sectors, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's allies in the House of Representatives yesterday announced they were shelving a plan to revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

Emerging from a three-hour caucus, Speaker Jose de Venecia announced on the floor that the House majority was scuttling Con-ass as a mode of revising the Constitution and was instead proposing a constitutional convention (Con-con) whose election for delegates would coincide with the May 14, 2007, balloting.

"We are not insensitive to public opinion," De Venecia said. The shift to Con-con as a mode of revising the Charter, he said, should "put an end to this emerging division in our society."

He said that it was the majority's "desire on the eve of Christmas to unite the country and the Filipino people."

But Majority Leader Prospero Nograles' subsequent motion left open the possibility that Con-ass was alive, ostensibly as a face-saving move. He said the scheduled opening today of Con-ass had been put off to allow the House members to deliberate on Con-con.

Nograles said the move was meant to accommodate "sentiments of the various sectors of society."

Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin said Con-ass was "dead" and would be "buried" on Friday during a rally at Rizal Park called by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to be joined by other organizations.

Administration Sen. Ralph Recto said the House leadership should first get Ms Arroyo to certify as urgent bills calling for a Con-con.

"Without the signature of the President on an official document saying that she wants the Con-con bill passed immediately, then all claims to the contrary are not true," Recto said.

Live up to challenge

Nograles called on the CBCP to urge the Senate to join the House majority in supporting Con-con.

"They should live up to the challenge of reforming the Constitution," he said. He stressed that the House had already acceded to the Senate's wish to abandon Con-ass in favor of Con-con.

The CBCP has called for the Rizal Park rally to protest the House move to ram through amendments to the Constitution. Last week, the House discarded a rule that the usual bicameral procedure in approving bills be followed in introducing amendments to the Charter.

The CBCP initiative has been joined by the Iglesia ni Cristo, Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai, Protestant Bishop Benny Abante and several Metro Manila mayors, among other anti-Charter change quarters.

The Con-ass plan has also been opposed by business groups, unions and organizations, representing professionals, farmers, women and the youth.

"I am not using the word challenge but the Senate should move expeditiously, based on their own public statement for the last two years, that they seek and prefer a constitutional convention," De Venecia said.

Not the time to change Charter, legal experts tell Senate (Inquirer) 

LEGAL EXPERTS yesterday told a Senate committee that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's move to tinker with the Constitution should not be carried out now under an atmosphere of "partisan strife."

During the daylong Senate hearing, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza and former Ateneo law dean Fr. Joaquin Bernas said the country's fundamental law should be amended or revised in a deliberate manner in an atmosphere of sobriety.

By amending its rules to shortcut the process of passing a resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly (Con-ass), the House of Representatives had just provided the biggest argument against a parliamentary system, said Bernas, a member of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution.

If at all, a referendum should be held simultaneously with the May 2007 elections or much later with the 2010 presidential elections, on whether the people agree to Charter change (Cha-cha) via Con-ass or a constitutional convention (Con-con) after a massive public information drive, Bernas and Mendoza said.

"There may be a need for change," said Mendoza. "This is not the time. The times do not seem to be propitious.

"There's so much partisan strife, which is the enemy of calmness and the sobriety needed for such serious business," he added.

Bernas said that "Constitution-making is a very serious thing; so it has to be approached in a very deliberate manner, very calm manner, not in the context of intense turmoil, which we are undergoing now."

He said the behavior of the administration lawmakers last week served as the best argument against a unicameral parliamentary system. "That is, I think, the mirror of what could happen if we were to approve the move to parliamentary now."

Sigaw to launch new 'initiative' (www.philstar.com)
A new wave of signature gathering for a second people's initiative that will seek to abolish Congress and create a national assembly under a unicameral parliamentary government is about to be set in motion. 

Sigaw ng Bayan, one of the main proponents of the people's initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution, revealed yesterday that a new movement is being formed to start the signature gathering by next week. 

Sigaw spokesman Raul Lambino said consultations were ongoing with multisectoral groups and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), a co-petitioner of Sigaw in the people's initiative case that the Supreme Court dismissed in October. 

"The fight for people's initiative is not over. We will launch the second wave of signature gathering to dismantle the gridlock between the two Houses of Congress that is a major stumbling block to the country's economic growth," Lambino told The STAR.


CBCP prayer rally moved to Sunday (www.philstar.com)
There is no stopping the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) from leading a prayer rally in Rizal Park, though it has been moved from Friday to Sunday, despite apparent moves of administration allies in the House of Representatives to pursue Charter change through a constitutional convention (con-con) rather than a constituent assembly. 

CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III said yesterday it would be unlikely for the bishops to scrap the rally on Sunday, especially as various groups have shown support and vowed to join the prayer rally. 

He confirmed that other churches, groups representing civil society, schools and the opposition will join the ecumenical rally. 

"In my 13 years with the CBCP, this is the first time we are organizing a rally this big and with so many groups joining," he said.
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