Friday, February 03, 2006

CODAL's paper on cha-cha, MUST READ



The proposed Constitution of the House of Representatives (House Proposal) does not promote electoral reform. On the contrary, its design of the electoral system institutionalizes corruption and fraud.

The credibility of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, who was appointed during the recent "Council of State" meeting as Presidential Adviser on Electoral Reforms, will definitely suffer if he campaigns for the ratification of the Constitution proposed by the administration of Pres. Gloria Arroyo. His acceptance of the post is tantamount to sweeping aside the charges of corruption committed by Pres. Arroyo in the 2004 elections. A survey of the election related provisions in the House Proposal shows that it is designed to facilitate corruption and electoral fraud by giving the incumbent chief executive and her party massive powers to influence the elections.

No Elections: Deceptive Plebiscite Question

The scheme to postpone elections found in Art. XVIII, Sec. 3 of the House Proposal is immediately ominous to electoral reforms advocates when it provided that :

Sec. 3. However, if in the Plebiscite for the ratification of the foregoing proposed amendments, the people shall decide to set the first elections under the parliamentary system to the second Monday of May 2010, then the interim parliament shall be extended until June 30, 2010.

Based on the above provision and according Rep. Prospero Nograles himself, the other question that will be posed in the ratification plebiscite is: " Are you in favor of holding the first parliamentary elections in 2007?". This question is deceptive as it carries two major proposals:
(a) Whether or not the people support the parliamentary system and its resulting parliamentary elections; and
(b) Whether or not the people want to postpone the 2007 elections.

Considering that the surveys show that many do not want the parliamentary system as they want to reserve for themselves the power to choose the Chief Executive, it is highly probable that many will vote 'no' to the question, unaware that they are also voting to postpone the 2007 elections. It will also be difficult to campaign for a 'yes' vote under this question as it implies support for the shift to a parliamentary system. The deceptive manner with which the question is posed will mean that the result of the planned plebiscite will not reflect the actual will of the Filipino people.

The 'No Election' scheme violates the people's rights to governance enshrined in the 1987 Constitution on the right to suffrage in Article V, peoples' participation in governance in Art. XIII, Sec. 16, and the constitutional principle in Art. II, Sec. 1 which declares that "sovereignty resides on the people and all government authority emanates from them."

Dual Powers for a Powerful Pres. Gloria Arroyo's until 2010

The House Proposal grants Pres. Gloria Arroyo greater powers until 2010 under Section 8, Art. XVIII, to wit :

Sec. 8. From the ratification of the foregoing Amendments to June 30, 2010, the incumbent President shall continue to exercise the same power as she has now, except those that she will delegate to the Prime Minister who shall serve as chief operating officer of the government, conformably with the Parliamentary system.

This provision practically assures Pres. Arroyo of the following powers, inter alia, under the 1987 Constitution:

(i) Her commander-in-Chief powers under Sec. 18, Art. VII
(ii) Her control and supervision over the Ministries and Cabinet under Sec. 17, Art. VII
(iii) Her executive powers of supervision over local governments under Sec. 4, Art. X
(iv) Her powers to contract loans and ratify treaties under Sec. 20
(v) Her emergency powers under Sec. 23, Art. VI
(vi) Appoint AFP officers, ambassadors, members of the cabinet or Ministries, members of COMELEC, COA, CSC and Ombudsman, Supreme Court among others under Sec. 16 Art. VII
(vii) Her Veto powers over Parliament under Sec. 27 (2), Art. VI
(viii) With ADDITIONAL POWERS under Art. VII, Sec. 6 of House Proposal: "Sec. 6 The President has the power to dissolve parliament"

With the dual powers of both the President (to dissolve parliament) and Prime Minister (current Executive powers), Pres. Arroyo will be the most powerful public official until 2010, at least. Since proposed Constitution assures her executive powers until June 30, 2010, she will maintain these powers as when she will vie for the office of the Prime Minister in the May 2010 elections—a repeat of what transpired in the 2004 elections. Since 1965, only two presidential candidates managed to ran in two successive elections while holding, as incumbents, the Office of the President—Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and Pres. Gloria Arroyo. Note that the aim of limiting the President to one term under the 1987 Constitution was to avoid the use of the office to support a reelection bid, consistently done by Pres. Marcos during martial law.

It must be noted that there are no term limits under Sec. 3, Art. VI of the proposed Constitution and Pres. Arroyo may run for Parliament repeatedly after 2010 :

"Sec. 3 The Members of Parliament shall be elected … for a term of five years without limit as to the number thereof…"

Allows Reappointment for Members of COMELEC

The proposed Constitution further provides in Article IX [C], Sec. 1 (2) on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) states:

"(2) The Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the Prime Minister...for a term the seven years without immediate reappointment. The incumbent chairman and commissioners shall be allowed to serve out their respective terms."

This means that COMELEC members who want to be reappointed will be vulnerable to the influence and 'requests' of Pres. Arroyo in the 2010 elections. The 1987 Constitution does not allow reappointment of members of Constitutional Commissions like the COMELEC. Under the proposed Constitution, Pres. Arroyo will have double the influence over the COMELEC officials she appoints than what she has now.

The powers of Pres. Arroyo are compounded by the strange deletion of the provision under Art. VII, Sec. 15 of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits the Chief Executive from appointing a public official two months before the election:

"[DELETED: Sec. 15. Two months before the next election and up to the end of his term a President…shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."]

Deleted the 'anti-nepotism' provision

The provision against nepotism under Art. VII, Sec. 13 of the 1987 Constitution was also ominously deleted :

[DELETED Sec. 13 " The spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity with the fourth civil degree of the President shall not during his tenure be appointed as members of the Constitutional Commissions, the Office of the Ombudsman, or as members of the Cabinet, chairmen or heads of bureaus or offices, including government owned or controlled corporations".]

This will make it difficult to contest the constitutionality of Pres. Arroyo's appointment of a relative to the COMELEC.

Difficulty in impeaching Pres. Arroyo and other impeachable public officials

Once the Constitution is ratified, it is almost impossible to initiate impeachment against Pres. Gloria Arroyo, unless the impeachment is supported by the Speaker of the House. The proposed Constitution deleted the "creeping impeachment" rule under Art. XI, Sec. 3 (3) and Sec. 3 (4) of the 1987 Constitution which merely requires a 1/3 vote of the House to initiate impeachment. Article XI, Sec. 3 (3) of the proposed Constitution raised the threshold to a difficult 'majority' vote:

"Sec. 3 (3) A majority of all members of the Parliament may either reject or approve the [impeachment] Resolution".

The proposed Constitution also strangely deleted the provision found in Art. VII, Sec 17 of the 1987 Constitution which formed the main basis in the previous impeachment complaint: "[DELETED: Sec. 17. The President …: shall ensure that all laws are faithfully executed"]

Subsidizing Election Campaign of Political Parties

A more shocking provision under the proposed Constitution is found in Art. IX [C] Sec. 6 which provide that: "Sec. 6. Political parties must be strengthened and must receive equitable subsidy from Government. .."

The new electoral system may not result in reforms, but it will certainly be a novelty: an impoverished people paying more taxes to fund the election campaign of wealthy traditional politicians.

The proposed Constitution will further institutionalize corruption and fraud in the electoral system. CODAL urges members of the legal profession and the advocates of electoral reforms to join in the campaign against the move to revise the 1987 Constitution on the basis that such a revision will further entrench corruption and fraud in the electoral system and will not result in political and economic reforms. The proposed Constitution is inimical to the interest of the Filipino people.

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares (Spokesperson)
Date : January 26, 2006

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