(STAR) Members of the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) rejected yesterday any attempt to amend the Constitution before 2010 or the calling of a constituent assembly.

Both groups said Charter change (Cha-cha) should be pursued after President Arroyo’s term ends and through a constitutional convention.

“The administration’s game plan has become transparent. Through whatever means, people must be seduced into thinking that the Constitution must be amended now. Now, before the incumbent president’s term ends in 2010. Now, when the only viable way is through a constituent assembly. Now, when those who will propose are members of the current Senate and the pro-administration House of Representatives,” the MBC and MAP, lashing out at the Arroyo government, said in a joint statement.

The groups noted that in a constituent assembly, as in a constitutional convention, the sovereign people themselves are considered assembled.

“The latest seduction – after the initial attempt to use peace in Mindanao as a Trojan horse was stalled by the Supreme Court – is by riding on the back of the advocacy of a member of the opposition to convert our country into a federated state,” they added.

The MBC and the MAP agreed that if Filipinos decide to consider a federation, the same should be done after 2010 for the people to be freely informed.

“Moreover, considering the far-reaching effects of such changes in the Constitution, we submit it should be done by a constitutional convention,” they said.

MBC executive director Alberto Lim, in an interview with The STAR, noted that a constitutional convention is a form of constituent assembly.

However, he said what the MBC and the MAP are opposing is the transformation of Congress into a constituent assembly since congressmen were elected as district representatives.

Lim said members of a constitutional convention must be elected or appointed to have national interest above self interest.

“We’re concerned with the self interest. In the last proposal, they wanted to extend their terms. The majority of Filipinos want elections to happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang denied yesterday claims by some senators that the recent order of the President to accelerate the release of pork barrel funds was part of an effort to push for Charter change.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the President’s move was meant to harness growth, jobs, and development.

Her directive was contained in Administrative Order 236 titled “Revving Up the Government Machinery or Massive Welfare Livelihood and Public Works Programs.”

Under the AO, the DBM was directed to speed up release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official term for the pork barrel, of the members of Congress.

Opposition senators claimed that the order was intended to get the support of members of the House of Representatives to the administration’s renewed effort to amend the Constitution.

The opposition legislators suspect that the administration’s push to amend the Charter is meant to extend the term of President Arroyo.

“That is not true. That is just their speculation. It’s just a figment of their imagination,” Ermita said.

He said the statements linking the AO to Charter change were probably coming from the legislators anxious to have some funds released to them. – Michael Punongbayan, Marvin Sy

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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