Lawmakers flag misrepresented people's initiative for Charter Change

By: Reigh John Bench Almendras
January 13, 2024

The house of representatives flag discrepancies on the proposed Charter Change bill. Photo courtesy of the Inquirer.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Raoul Manuel reveals there has been a report of mass distribution of forms for Charter Change (Cha-Cha) in different communities containing agreements to participate in the people's initiative.

Lawmakers branded the alleged signature campaign with a payment invoking a certain amount of pesos in accordance with the amendments for the 1987 Constitution as a form of “pambubudol” or scam.

People's Initiative

The people's initiative is one of the demonstrations of democracy alongside the Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Convention with respect to the Article 17 of the 1987 Constitution as a means to advance the chances of Cha-Cha.

With process stipulated in Republic Act (RA) 6735, also known as “The Initiative and Referendum Act”, people's initiative attempts trace back in 2006 during the Arroyo and Ramos administrations Ramos, which both failed the approval of the Supreme Court (SC).

The SC held that the amendment was not "directly proposed by the people". They then claimed that the involved people were asked of their signatures without due awareness of the petition they were signing. A scheme currently repeating and spreading in different areas of the country, 

In an attempt to promote support to Cha-Cha this year, a television (TV) advertisement is repeatedly aired seeking to discredit the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Revolution and the 1987 Constitution. The contentious advertisement was broadcasted across media giants ABS-CBN, GMA, and TV5 

Debates on Charter Change

In a statement, House of Representatives Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez asserted the lower house would move to rewrite portions of the constitution, prioritizing the removal of foreign ownership provision.

The ACT Teachers partylist, as a member of the minority, believes the government should focus more on pressing socio-political problems rather than prioritizing Cha-Cha.

The 2024 budget of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) resurfaces in the midst of the issue as it only requires P2 Billion, but was granted P14 Billion for its plebiscite initiatives.

The Senate and House of Representatives face problems with the manner of voting as the 1987 Constitution is silent on whether they should vote jointly or separately to advance Cha-Cha.

People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (PIRMA), a group that aims to revive proposals for Cha-Cha, opens up its goal to see the senators and congressmen to vote jointly on the issue.

Response of the Legislative, Executive, and Experts

In his statement in January 2023, President Marcos Jr. tags Cha-Cha as not a priority of his administration. The palace remains silent on the issue.

In response, the Marcos sister, Senator Imee Marcos files a resolution to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation to question the misrepresented initiative.

Attorney Christian Monsod, one of the creators of the 1987 Constitution, warns the public to be careful with the papers they are signing, as these might jeopardize proper exercise of democracy.