People's News Philippines

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By the New People's Initiative for Charter Change

Senator Gordon Suggests a Plebiscite on a Plebiscite!

Senator Richard "Dick" Gordon and a few other Senators announced this week that instead of voting for Constitutional Convention delagates simultaneous with the May elections, he favors a "special" plebiscite or election that would ask Filipinos if they wanted amendments/revisions to the 1987 constitution which would itself lead to a plebiscite for final approval.

Under the current Philippine constitution, there are three modes of which it could be amended/revised: via People's Initiative (PI), Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) and Constitutional Convention (Con-Con). All three would lead to a plebiscite of which a vote of the majority of Filipinos would ratify the proposed amendments/revisions.

Majority of Senators opposed the People's Initiative and Constituent Assembly mode (which both have a proposal to abolish the two houses of Congress and turn it into a unicameral Parliament) on the grounds that they favored the Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) mode. After the House of Representatives (Lower House) under House Speaker Jose De Venecia retreated on the Constituent-Assembly (Con-Ass) mode to call for election of Constitutional-Convention delages simultaneous with the May 2007 elections, many Senators now have announced that "there is no need for rush" and that the people should be consulted through a "special" election or plebiscite.

Many are asking why didn't the Senate, in the first place, supported the plebisicte that would have taken place if the People's Initiative and Constituent Assembly had pushed through as the plebiscite would make the Filipino people vote a simple Yes or No: Yes if they wanted the proposed amendments to the present constitution (a shift into a unicameral Parliament) or No if they wanted to retain the present political system or no amendments/revisions to the present constitution. Having a "special" plebiscite to ask Filipinos about the modes that would amend/revise the 1987 constitution is having a "special" referendum that has no real legal bearing on the issues at hand and which could itself lead to a political process that would include another plebiscite on the proposed revision/amendments to the constitution or political system. For most pro Charter Charter supporters, the Senators' stance on the issue is hardly surprising, "the Senators would use all sort of delaying tactics on Charter Change...there's no way they'll let go of their posts" says one caller on the government owned AM radio station Radyo ng Bayan. From:DMT,December 15, 2006 (Friday)

Less than 500 people joined Anti-Charter Change Rally

Less than 500 people took to the streets in Makati yesterday to show their protest against the proposed Charter Change. Composed mostly of left wing groups, they carried banners that says "NO TO CONSTITUENT-ASSEMBLY! NO TO CONSTITUTIONAL-CONVENTION! NO TO CHARTER CHANGE!"

Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati, who is a leading figure in the Philippines' opposition spent less than an hour in the rally.

The rally was much less than expected. ABS CBN news and GMA 7, days before yesterday's rally, spent a lot of coverage on what was supposed to be a "major" rally of many Filipinos against Charter Change; the two stations however hardly spent news coverage on what turned out to be a tiny left wing rally. From: DMT,December 16, 2006 (Saturday)

Anti Cha-Cha Plebiscite "Prayer Rally" Flopped

Despite significant publicity and promotion by the Philippines' elite media, the anti Charter Change rally (organized by the Catholic and Protestant Churches; Brother Mike Velarde's El Shadai; Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); civil societies and leading opposition figures) drew only about 13 000 to 16 000 people based on police and media reporter's estimates. The attendance was much less than the 500,000 people expected by the rally's organizers.

With the theme "Pray and Watch", the Catholic speakers in the prayer rally called on the people to support "character change" instead of systematic changes in the country's constitution and political system. The speakers also called on the politicians to "give up their ambitions." Notably, the "prayer rally" speakers never mentioned anything about House Speaker Jose De Venecia's proposal of election of Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) delegates simultaneous with the May elections (which the anti Cha-Cha, including the Catholic Church, previously claimed is the only mode of constitutional change or charter change process that they would support).

About a week ago, House Speakere Jose De Venecia abandoned the President Gloria Arroyo supported Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) mode of amending/revising the constitution because of threats of mass actions from anti Cha-Cha forces. House Speaker De Venecia conceded to the Constitutional-Convention mode which now is being labelled as "untimely" by many of those who previously claimed to support it.

Had the Congress, under Speaker De Venecia, been succesful with the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) mode, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would set a 60 to 90 day campaign period followed by a plebiscite that would ask Filipinos if they wanted the amendments/revisions on the 1987 constitution that would shift the political system into a unicameral Parliament. From: DMT, December 18, 2006 (Monday)


A CBCP spokesman blamed alleged police "scare tactics" for the low turnout in the church sponsored anti Charter Change plebiscite rally. According to CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pepe Quitorio: "It's actually the quality of the crowd not the quantity." The mainstream media who interviewed Msgr. Quitorio failed to request elaboration on Msgr Quitorio's statement regarding "quality" considering that (based on People's News estimate) 50% of those who attended were full time left wing activists; 20% were Joseph Estrada loyalists and the remaining 25%, students from Catholic schools who were "encouraged" by their teachers to join.

The CBCP spokesman and Catholic Bishop Oscar Cruz also failed to elaborate on what sort of "scare tactics" were used by the police. Days before the Church promoted rally, there were rumours that terrorrist might sabotage the anti plebiscite rally.

Meanwhile, the two biggest mainstream media in the Philippines (ABS CBN and GMA 7) who conceded (in some of their news coverage) to police and their own reporter's estimate that the rally was attended by about 16 000 people continue to refer to the rally in most of their reports as attended by 50 000 or 150 000. From: DMT,December 20, 2006 (Wednesday)

GMA, pro Cha-Cha Groups welcome CBCP's "Character Change"

After the president of the politically active Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called for an "educative and moral character change", President Gloria Arroyo commended the CBCP for their demand. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a press briefing yesterday that “we agree that moral values should be emphasized, especially in our society, which has become very materialistic.” Bunye said Ms Arroyo supported the Church in “pushing for a complete moral transformation.” He also added that “good values are the foundation of a stable democratic society and we hope that the Church will continue to take the lead in this advocacy.”

Meanwhile, pro Charter Change groups also shared the same sentiment. In Ms Carmen Ignacio's daily radio talkshow, Pagusapin Natin, on DZRJ AM station, Ms. Ignacio said that indeed many politicians, particularly in the Senate and opposition, need character change. Ms Ignacio went on to stress the necessity of unity and positive actions in order to bring this country forward; "negative politicking won't bring our country forward" says Ms Ignacio.

Many of DZRJ's callers called on the politically involved priests and bishops to show example of "character change" by renouncing anti-government and divisive actions. They particularly singled out Bishop Antonio Realubin Tobias of Novaliches who a few weeks ago, in his Sunday sermon, called on the military to revolt against the government. "Such calls for violent actions won't solve our nation's problems" says one caller.

New People's Initiative founder, Dante Montano Tagle, in an interview also agreed that the call for character change is very timely in today's context. He however stressed that "aside from character change, we should also work on other necessary systematic changes such as Charter Change so that we could expedite our nation's recovery." He went on to say that "unfortunately, character change alone is not enough to solve the challenges our nation is facing, we have to do more than that." He however praised the CBCP and other rally organizers for having a peaceful and non violent rally last Sunday. From: AAT December 21, 2006 (Thursday)

The Philippines Will Repay Early its Outstanding Obligations to IMF

The Philippines on December 28, 2006 announced that it will repay early its outstanding financial obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which is originally due in April 2007.

The payment amounting to about US$219.9 million will exit the Philippines from its post-program monitoring (PPM) with the IMF.

The Arroyo government was able to reached its economic growth target for 2006. The Philippine Stock Exchange(PSE) and the peso currency also reached its 4 to 6 year highest in 2006. The IMF praised the Philippine government's decision. From: DMT January 3,2007 (Wednesday)

The Longest Economic Boom in The Philippines!!! - JEBA

Jose E.B. Antonio, chairman of the largest private real estate company in the Philippines - Century Properties Group, said in an interview that the country might experience its longest economic boom.

The interview was conducted by The Philippine Star writer Joey Concepcion on top entrepreneurs in the Philippines. 100% of the entrepreneurs interviewed are upbeat about the economic prospect of the country starting this year. Like Jose Antonio, many of the entrepreneurs emphasized the need for massive investments in infrastructures; the country operated in a re-enacted budget in 2006 forcing the government to spend P100 billion less than needed.

In another positive development, the Senate and the House of Representatives have reached a compromise regarding the 2007 budget. This would resolve one of the 2 major concerns for this year of many local and foreign investors: another re-enacted budget that would again hamper government spending on projects and infrastructures; and a new round of impeachment against President Arroyo if the opposition gets the majority in Congress after the May 2007 elections.

Last week, the sharemarket hit a 10-year high while the peso appreciated to its 6-year strongest. From DMT 13 January 2007

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