SEPTEMBER 25, 2006 (STAR) Malacañang said yesterday the administration’s Charter change campaign has reached "a high point" with the public’s growing support for the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

The Palace has also urged the country’s political leaders and concerned sectors not to stifle the clamor for constitutional reforms.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Palace-backed information drive on Charter change will continue, even as the fate of the people’s initiative campaign now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.

"The proponents (of the people’s initiative) hope to make a good case on Tuesday before the Supreme Court but, even so, our information campaign would continue," Ermita said in a telephone interview, referring to the non-government Sigaw ng Bayan Movement (SBM) and the Union of Local Authorities of Philippines (ULAP).

He said the people’s clamor for Charter change "would be hard to ignore." Apart from the SBM and the ULAP, the Palace-backed Charter Change Advocacy Commission is also conducting its own nationwide information drive.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the support of Filipinos for constitutional reforms only showed that the administration was right in pushing for Charter change.

"The growing support of the people is a high point in the campaign for Charter change," Bunye said. "The challenge now lies on our political leaders and other sectoral groups to let the process roll forward," Bunye said.

The Palace officials issued their statements after the latest survey conducted by the Center for Issues and Advocacy showed that up to 45 percent of survey respondents believe that ordinary citizens have the right to make amendments to the Constitution and some 42 percent believe that a parliamentary form of government will speed up the Philippines’ economic recovery.

The Arroyo administration is pushing for a shift from the existing presidential form of government to a unicameral parliamentary system.

Charter change proponents are also advocating to lift the restrictive economic provisions as well as implementing judicial and economic reforms.

Ed Malay, executive director of the Center, said the results of the poll mean that the middle and the low income classes "are now emerging as a participative member of the political society whose views and opinion must be regarded in the decision-making process, as these particular groups have now become aware of their rights and privileges to shape their own political destinies."

The poll also revealed that 43 percent of respondents favor amending the Constitution through a people’s initiative while 38 percent oppose that approach, he said.

Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio earlier expressed optimism that the High Court will see merit in the petition to continue the people’s initiative mode of amending the Constitution.

Claudio said the administration is hoping that the SC would act on the petition, once it is filed by proponents of the people’s initiative, with "dispatch."

"The stage is set for the High Court to settle the constitutional feasibility of people initiative once and for all," Claudio said. "We fully rely on the judiciousness and wisdom of the High Court."

He said the administration is hoping that the SC would consider the "democratic significance of the gathering of signatures." — Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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