Anti-Chacha Signature Drive Kicks Off in Davao

Mar. 30, 2006

President Arroyo says Thursday: “The true power of the people is being felt with the signature campaign to change our form of government

By Jetty Ayop-Ohaylan photo by Barry OhaylanDAVAO CITY Several progressive groups from this city launched on Thursday a signature campaign against Charter change, in an attempt to counter an alleged deceptive campaign by the Arroyo administration to railroad the shift to a parliamentary form of government.

In Tagaytay City, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo openly declared her advocacy of constitutional amendments through a peoples initiative, which involves the gathering of the signatures of at least 12 percent of registered voters nationwide.

In her keynote speech at the 2006 Philippines Development Forum, Arroyo said, “The true power of the people is being felt with the signature campaign to change our form of government. She labeled as “petty politics” the opposition to the amendments.

“This is why charter change is so important: to help break the back of petty politics of the status quo that may put headlines in the paper but does nothing to put food on the table,” the president said. photo by Barry Ohaylan

Critics of the Charter change contend that the president is pressing for a shift in the form of government so she can avert another possible impeachment complaint arising from allegations that she cheated in the 2004 elections.

Leftist groups, meanwhile, believe that constitutional amendments will pave the way for the overhauling of the Constitution to remove whatever protectionist provisions remained so the economy can be open to foreign interests.

In Davao City, members of these leftist groups hopped from one public market to another, explaining to vendors, market-goers and passersby why Arroyo is pushing for Charter change.

They made stopovers beginning at the busy Anda Street, then to the Bankerohan market, the Ma-a junction, and the Matina market. They also passed around a document that stated the five reasons why they are opposed to Charter change.

One, that Charter change is a systematic plan to extend the term of a fake president. Two, that it will just be used to resurrect martial law; a particular provision they are convinced would be removed is the 60-day cap on the declaration of martial law. Three, that it will further open the country to the exploitation of multinational companies. Four, that it will trample upon the people’s right to self-determination and culture; they are concerned about a proposed provision allowing foreign ownership of schools, mass media and advertising firms. Five, that Charter change will violate the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Filipino people. photo by Barry OhaylanAriel Casilao, acting secretary general of Bayan in Southern Mindanao, told that they received positive responses from the people they approached. Some were grateful about the anti-Charter change drive while others readily signed as soon as they heard what the signature gathering was for.

Eduardo Rosauro, a leader of Maharlika Village in Maa, said he was grateful for the initiative of the progressive groups. The signature campaign they launched helped us a lot. We know this favors the poor. Unlike that of GMA’s signature campaign, which sides the rich, he said.

Rosauro criticized the assembly called by the interior department last March 25, saying that aside from being elitist because only barangay functionaries attended it, the process was very wrong.

They made people sign documents but they did not thoroughly explain what these documents were for. After letting the people sign the attendance sheets, they passed next a paper for the cha-cha. They should not have done that in the first place. They should have passed the paper along and people sign. It was a very wrong process, Rosario said.

Casilao, meanwhile, called last week’s barangay assembly a pure hoax and an insult to the real meaning of people’s initiative. Casilao said theirs was the true people’s initiative because they made sure people were informed first about the content of the document before they urged them to sign it.

The political opposition had argued that the peoples initiative could not be used to change the constitution without an enabling or implementing law, something that the Supreme Court had ruled on in a 1997 case. Without this law, for instance, the Comelec cannot legally verify the signatures in the petition which would make the process legally defective.

Senators, most of whom are critical of Arroyo, are not inclined to pass any enabling law at this point at least while Arroyo is in Malacanang, according to Senator Aquilino Pimentel. Besides, the deliberation of such a proposed law alone would take time something the Arroyo administration, according to the political opposition, does not have if it intends to head off another round of impeachment proceedings by the middle of this year. (Jetty Ayop-Ohaylan/

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