PALACE WELCOMES LOCAL EXECS' DRIVE FOR 'PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE'

MANILA
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January 9, 2006 (STAR) Malacañang yesterday welcomed efforts by local government leaders to spearhead a "people’s initiative" or a nationwide signature campaign to push for amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

However, former consultative commission (con-com) secretary general Lito Monico Lorenzana said a people’s initiative to back Charter change efforts may be shot down by the Supreme Court because there is no law for the implementation of a people’s initiative provided for in the Constitution.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said while the Palace has no specific stand yet on the plan of the influential Union of Local Authorities (ULAP) to push for the people’s initiative as a mode to amend the 1987 Constitution, it welcomed the move as another sign of healthy and active democratic processes in the country in implementing political and economic reforms.

"The reported moves of the local government authorities to gather millions of signatures in support of charter change should be welcomed as a constructive democracy exercise in support of overall political reform and change," Bunye said in a statement.

"This is a new front of popular participation that will enrich the debates and enlarge the arena of political change and transformation," he said.

He said: "Indeed, the whole Filipino nation must participate in Charter change and thereby help shape our collective future."

Bunye said the 55-man con-com has completed its work on coming up with proposed constitutional amendments following nationwide consultations and discussions.

Bunye said the con-com’s proposal is now being discussed by lawmakers, who also have been crafting amendments to the Constitution in Congress for final approval by the people through a plebiscite.

Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio said the move of local executives to conduct a nationwide campaign is "their independent initiative."

"But, given the primordial importance of Charter change to the objective of political and economic reforms, we welcome the emergence of a legitimate, democratic and constitutional back-up to the constituent assembly as a means to amend the Constitution," Claudio said.

He was referring to the convening of the Senate and the House of Representatives into a single Charter-amending body to come up with a draft constitution and having the draft constitution approved in a plebiscite.

Some senators, particularly those with presidential ambitions, are objecting to the convening of the constituent assembly, fearing they will be outvoted.

No enabling law

"This is a welcome development but I do not think this can push for Cha-Cha because there is no enabling law (for a people’s initiative)," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana cited the attempted people’s initiative to change the Charter in 1997 by the civic group PIRMA (People’s Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action), which had engaged in a nationwide signature campaign.

PIRMA managed to gather 12 percent of the total number of registered voters to start Charter change initiatives, but the SC ruled against PIRMA, saying the process of signature-gathering is illegal in the absence of an enabling law for the implementation of the people’s initiative.

"I expect the Supreme Court will also do the same with what ULAP is trying to do," he said.

Lorenzana suggested that ULAP also use its signature gathering campaign for Charter change as a venue to educate the people on the need to amend the Constitution as well as expose them to the other proposed amendments to the 1987 Charter aside from the now controversial no elections ("no-el") in 2007.

"I have no doubt that (ULAP spokesman and Eastern Samar Gov. Ben) Evardone can get the numbers (of signatures needed). They are giving a strong signal to the Senate. But in addition to just gathering signatures, they should also inform the people that there are other good provisions aside from no-el," said Lorenzana.

Evardone on Saturday announced that ULAP would launch a people’s initiative campaign in February.

Evardone said a signature campaign is provided for by the 1987 Constitution, specifically in the provisions on a "people’s initiative," as a means to propose amendments to the Charter.

He said many local chief executives doubt that Congress will push through with Charter change initiatives, especially with the opposition of some senators.

Evardone said local government units (LGUs), through ULAP, will initiate a campaign to gather at least five million signatures from the current voting population of more than 40 million across the country to support Charter change.

"We plan to gather 12 percent of the voting population nationwide or three percent per legislative district," Evardone said in a media forum.

He said an overwhelming majority of the LGUs nationwide are in favor of the recommendations made by the con-com, including the controversial proposal to scrap the 2007 midterm elections and extend the terms of all elected officials for another three years for a smooth transition to a parliamentary-federal system of government in 2010. — Paolo Romero, Mike Frialde

VIEW FROM THE PALACE (For the week ending January 08, 2005)

To dismiss the strong peso as no big deal is to demean the sacrifices and heroism of our OFWs who are tirelessly working beyond our shores to provide economic security to their loved ones. This alone is a big deal for Filipinos who dream of a better life, a dream that the administration shares with every Filipino family amidst the stiffest odds. National survival borne out of collective effort and synergy in the hardest of times is a big deal.

But we do share the concerns raised by Sen. Roxas, and we assure him that the payback on economic reforms is already here, in terms of the multi-billion pump priming program as well as the larger, strategic programs to fight hunger and poverty. The Arroyo administration is combining immediate relief measures and long-gestating initiatives to jumpstart jobs, lower the cost of food, increase access to cheap quality medicine and health insurance, broaden education and housing opportunities and expanding infrastructure inroads to push productivity.

Examples of these priority programs are the "rice and noodle" stores which will make available these two basic commodities at affordable prices. In addition, a massive program to make available the four most needed medicines at half their 2001 prices is in the works.

In education, the government’s priority would be to close the school building-classroom gap in the elementary level. In the secondary level, the thrust would be the issuance of ‘education vouchers’ which would enable excess public high students to enroll in private high schools.

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The reported moves of the local government authorities to gather millions of signatures in support of charter change should be welcomed as a constructive democracy exercise in support of overall political reform and change.

Indeed, the whole Filipino nation must participate in Charter change and thereby help shape our collective future. As the Consultative Commission had already accomplished its goal, and Congress gears for more debates and consultations on the Constitution, this is a new front of popular participation that will enrich the debates and enlarge the arena of political change and transformation.

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I was recently asked by Mons Romulo Tantoco, daughter of Secretary Bert Romulo and columnist of the Philippine Star, regarding my thoughts on what each Filipino can do to contribute to our country's development. You will have to read her weekly column to find out my answer, but I would like to share with you some other thoughts that came to mind after I replied to Mons' query. In his book "Success One Day at a Time", renowned motivational author and speaker John Maxwell wrote that "to be succesful, you don't need to be lucky or rich. But you do need to know this: You are what you do daily. You first form your habits; then your habits form you. It is just as easy to form habits of success as it is to form habits of failure. Every day you live, you are in the process of becoming. Whether you are becoming better or worse depends on what you give yourself to."

Many other speakers have their own takes on this themes. Who hasn't heard of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Indeed, habits are what we do with such regularity that they become second nature to us.

The beginning of the new year gives us all a clean slate and fresh start to form our own "national habits" that should propel us in the right direction: simple habits like obeying the law, working diligently, thinking of the common good before thinking of ourselves. Each day, we must challenge ourselves to do better than yesterday, and still better tomorrow. The success of our country does not depend on government alone, but on each of us pitching in according to our own talents and capabilities.

Certain nations are known for certain collective or shared traits. For example, the Germans are considered sticklers for discipline and efficiency, while the Japanese culture is anchored on respect for elders and superiors. As we do our own soul searching as a people, may we re-discover our bayanihan spirit and other traits that we do possess but may have momentarily disregarded in this rat race called life.

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Note: You may email us at totingbunye2000@yahoo.com


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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