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Activists Rally Against Philippine Constitution Change

AsianJournal, News Report, Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress Posted: Dec 19, 2008

MANILA --- It was like a big early Christmas party in the heart of Makati City on Friday, Dec. 12, as thousands staged song and dance numbers on the streets where buildings decorated with holiday trimmings stand.

But what seemed to be a party was actually a rally against administration lawmakers to amend the Philippine Constitution.

Protest banners and placards riddled the streets, with messages like "Junk Cha-Cha," "Oust Gloria," and "Moderate your Greed," along with another statement from the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) that reads "Ang rehimeng ito ang pinakamasama (This regime is the worst)."

FSGO is composed of 80 former ranking officials who have denounced corruption in the Arroyo administration.

Political force

Numerous political personalities joined the protest, headed by Mayor Jejomar Binay, who at the start of the protest, declared Makati as a charter change-free city.

"Dito sa Makati, maniwala kayo magkakasama tayong lalaban sa anumang pagbabago sa ating Saligang Batas (Here in Makati, believe me, we are together to fight any attempt to change the Constitution)," he said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Binay and his constituents have declared their determination to fight efforts to extend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos term through charter change.

Senators Mar Roxas II, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal also joined the anti-charter change rally, along with former Senate President Franklin Drilon and former vice president Teofisto Guingona, Jr.

"Bayan Muna" Representatives Teddy Canino and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Representative Liza Maza, as well as members of the "Bagong Alyansang Makabayan" (Bayan)group mobilized thousands of people from a "broad range of forces," according to Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.

Former President Corazon Aquino, who said that she is supporting calls to junk plans to amend the Constitution, was unable to make it but issued a statement that was read during the program. Another former president, Joseph Estrada, who promised to join the rally, did not show up, as he had to be with his ailing 103-year mother, Dona Mary Ejercito at the San Juan Medical Center. His son, Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, represented him instead, and criticized the recent dismissal of an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo at the House of Representatives.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer he said, "Kamakailan, pinatay ang impeachment complaint, hindi idininig ang ika-apat na impeachment complaint, kaya patuloy ang katiwalian sa ating bansa (Recently, they killed the impeachment complaint, they did hear the fourth impeachment complaint, which is why corruption continues in our country)."

Senate vs House?

Members of the Senate led by Senator Mar Roxas said at the rally on December 12 that he and his colleagues will go to the Supreme Court if allies of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives will continue with their plan to amend the Constitution without the upper chambers participation.

With all 23 senators signing a resolution introduced by Senator Francis Pangilinan, showed the unity of the Senate. The resolution states that any attempt by the House of Representatives to unilaterally revise the Constitution "without the approval by three-fourths of the Senate voting separately is unconstitutional."

According to Pangilinan, the resolution was a very persuasive document should the matter be brought to the Supreme Court, but hopes that the issue would not reach the high court as this would be a "waste of time.

On the other hand, some members of the House of Representatives believe that the Senate may have usurped the function of the higher court when it issued the resolution.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles said in an interview with The Philippine Star, "I think the proper forum to declare it not constitutional is the Supreme Court, not the Senate. But I respect their opinion as they should respect the opinion of the House."

Photocredit: Bullit Marquez/AP

Related Articles:

10,000 Philippine Protesters Want President Arroyo Out

U.S. Declares Support for Phil. Pres. Arroyo

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