Intimidation and Compromise

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MEMBERS of both legislative chambers are seemingly held hostage and compelled to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for Charter Change.

Who wouldn’t be intimidated with a petition paper allegedly signed and supported by more than half a million elected local government officials?

At the hearing conducted by the House of Representatives committee on constitutional amendments, the Department of the Interior and Local Government boasted on petition papers which allegedly had over 500,000 signatures of elected local officials from the congressional districts they represent.

However, it seemed that the petition which was presented to Congress by Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, a member of the Inter-agency Task Force for Federalism and Constitutional Reform, actually supported amendments on other provisions and not that of what the President recently asked Congress to immediately act on.

No less than Malaya himself admitted that the 555,610 signatures were gathered during a roadshow promoting the merits of amending certain provisions in the Constitution – but not on those which the President referred to. Duterte specifically asked both chambers to work on the constitutional framework on party-list representation.

I recall having a lengthy conversation with some friends from way back who have been elected to local positions. According to them, they were made to sign on the petition out of intimidation and compromise.

The intimidation part hinted on the possibility of dragging their names into the list of narco-politicians. It was during then that local officials were killed one after another.

The compromise aspect embarks on promises like prioritizing their requests to the Office of Senator Bong Go, direct access to point men in agencies like the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. Both agencies are known sponsoring community-based projects where they stand to gain political prominence in their respective localities.

Interestingly, members of the House of Representatives have recently been dragged into corruption in connivance with the district engineers in their turf, and quite a number of them are facing graft charges at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Will conforming what the President asked for exonerate them?

Among the salient features of the amendments that both legislative chambers will tackle include allowing foreigners {not necessarily Chinese nationals} full ownership of businesses and parcels of land.  

According to House committee chair Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, they would only tackle economic provisions.

Rep. Garbin must have mistaken the constitutional provision covering the party-list system as an economic clause. The last time I checked, the party-list system remains part of the political structures as provided for under the Constitution.

At any rate, I have serious doubt that the constitutional amendments being pushed by the President would be approved by both chambers. Well, maybe at the lower house, but I don’t think the administration could muscle enough numbers at the Senate.

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