Senators, staff don maroon armbands to protest vs. People's Initiative

By Wilnard Bacelonia

January 29, 2024, 12:54 pm Updated on January 29, 2024, 1:44 pm

<p><strong>NO TO PI.</strong> Senate employees wear maroon armbands on Monday (Jan. 29, 2024). It is a show of solidarity and protest against a People's Initiative to amend the constitution. <em>(PNA photo by Yancy Lim)</em></p>

NO TO PI. Senate employees wear maroon armbands on Monday (Jan. 29, 2024). It is a show of solidarity and protest against a People's Initiative to amend the constitution. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Senate employees and senators wore white tops and donned maroon armbands on Monday to express their support for the institution and protest against the "flawed and unconstitutional" People's Initiative (PI) which allegedly involves bribery and other illegal activities.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the maroon armband reiterates the Senate's stand to uphold the check and balance system in the legislative branch.

"Itong (This) armband is a show of solidarity to the Senate and the check and balance of our system, and of course in protest to the people's initiative," Gatchalian said.

The PI, one of the three ways to amend the Constitution, seeks to eliminate the Senate and remove the check and balance in the legislative system, he added.

"Kapag natuloy 'tong people's initiative, isang tao na lang ang magdedesisyon para amyendahan ang ating Konstitusyon. Hindi maganda 'yan para sa ating lahat. So, nakikiisa tayo sa Senado (If this people's initiative would continue, only one person can decide to amend our Constitution, That's not good for everyone. So, we are one with the Senate)," Gatchalian said.

On Sunday, Senator Grace Poe called on the public to reject the "fake" PI and focus on the main problems that need to be addressed.

"Isa lang naman ang solusyon dyan: tigilan nyo na itong pekeng (There is only one solution to this: stop this fake) initiative. We, in the Senate, are ready to work and focus on the things that matter and we hope the House is ready to set aside this PI and do the same," Poe said.

In a Facebook post, the Senate said the armband is reminiscent of the Oxford crimson-colored robes of senators sitting as judges in an impeachment court.

The armbands also "signify the Senate's strong resolve to uphold the nation's democratic processes and ensure that any legislation put forth will serve the best interest of Filipinos."

All 24 senators signed a manifesto last week expressing their disapproval of the PI.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier described the PI as "flawed and unconstitutional", saying it could lead to a constitutional crisis.

A legitimate PI, he said, should be "genuinely led by the people" and not by politicians./

‘Not to abolish Senate’

House members and political leaders said the lower chamber is not out to eliminate the Senate in their push for constitutional reform.

“With regard to the fears and allegations that the House would want to abolish the Senate, we would just like to let everybody know that as far as our party is concerned, there is no way we will be voting in any form to remove our five senators,” Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit said in a media interview Sunday night.

“And if we are not going to remove our five senators, then the other 19 senators can be assured,” the head of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) bloc in the House added.

Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan said Charter change will focus only on the economic provisions to increase the collection of funds for better social services.

“To our Senate friends, kasi (because) as part of NPC, we have five senators from NPC, and of course we will never abolish them. So, we're here to commit na hindi po masasama 'yung mga usapang abolition ng Senate (that the Senate abolition issues is not included) when we do amend the Constitution,” she said.

Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr., a stalwart of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said political amendments are not part of the Charter reform advocacy of the House.

“We will embrace RBH [Resolution of Both Houses] No. 6 because that's the economic provisions. At ‘yan po ang kailangan ng ating bansa (and that is what the country needs),” he said.

Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia, secretary general of the National Unity Party (NUP), said “we just want economic reforms so that we can improve our economy to produce more jobs, better pay, and better lives for our citizens.”

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, a Nacionalista Party (NP) House leader, appealed to the senators to “work towards achieving what we want to achieve for the country.”

“Economic reforms are the key in achieving the goals and the objectives of our Bagong Pilipinas movement. We pray for their support and we would like to appeal to them to look at the better picture of doing something good for this country,” Barbers said.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, who heads the Party-List Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI), echoed Barbers’ appeal.

“This is the only way. Many presidents and administrations have promised to alleviate the lives of [Filipinos] in every election, but it never happened. So I think this is the best time to achieve this and a game-changer for our nation. Let's stand together and help each other,” he said.

House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose "Mannix" Dalipe urged fellow lawmakers to stop all the “useless bickering” and focus on what is good for the people. (with a report from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)