Senate officially rejects people's initiative via manifesto

By Wilnard Bacelonia

January 23, 2024, 7:02 pm

<p>The Philippine Senate Session Hall <em>(PNA file photo by Avito Dalan)</em> </p>

The Philippine Senate Session Hall (PNA file photo by Avito Dalan) 

MANILA – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri read on Tuesday a manifesto signed by all 24 senators, expressing their disapproval of the people's initiative (PI), which allegedly involves bribery and other illegal activities, as a way to pursue Charter change.

Zubiri said the PI only seeks for both houses of Congress to act as a Constituent assembly and vote jointly.

"While it seems simple, the goal is apparent -- to make it easier to revise the Constitution by eliminating the Senate from the equation. It is an obvious prelude to further amendments, revisions, or even an overhaul of our entire Constitution," he said.

Zubiri said the joint voting will "destroy the delicate balance on which our hard-won democracy rests" and "will destabilize the principle of bicameralism and our system of checks and balances."

"If this PI prospers, further changes to the Constitution can be done with or without the Senate's approval, or worse, even absent all the senators. Should Congress vote jointly in a Constituent assembly, the Senate and its 24 members cannot cast any meaningful vote against the 316 members of the House of Representatives. This singular and seemingly innocuous change in the Constitution will open the floodgates to a wave of amendments and revisions that will erode the nation as we know it," Zubiri said.

The Senate President also cited "most radical proposals like foreign ownership and the removal of term limits, or even a "no election scenario" in 2025 or in 2028 which cannot be prevented by senators if the PI will succeed.

Zubiri also cited the proposal to be "ridiculous" considering that the Senate, a co-equal chamber of the House of Representatives, which have been both working together to pass local bills, "will have a dispensable and diluted role in Charter Change -- the most monumental act of policymaking concerning the highest law in the land."

"Today, the Senate once again stands as a bastion of democracy, as it rejects this brazen attempt to violate the Constitution, the country, and our people. This Senate of the people will not allow itself to be silenced," he said.

The Senate, through its Committee on Electoral Reforms and People's Participation chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, is set to probe on the PI bribe reports. (PNA)