Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., asked her brother to tell the proponents of the People’s Initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution to cease and desist their actions.
“I’ve said it time and again to stand firm and put an end to this People’s Initiative that they started,” the senator said during a TV interview with local media.
There’s just one hitch. The “they” that she was referring to includes none other than Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the senator’s and President’s first cousin.
Senators have pointed to Romualdez as being behind the initiative, which the Speaker initially denied but later admitted that he was supporting.
The senator and the Speaker have exchanged less-than-friendly words with each other in the last couple of weeks over the People’s Initiative.
The senator said the president could “make a very firm and clear cut stand, put an end to the People’s Initiative and let’s do this properly together and there will be no controversy.”
The President had stated that he was inclined to revise certain portions of the charter, particularly the limits it sets on foreign ownership of property and businesses.
Marcos Jr. had even tasked the Senate to review the Constitution to determine which parts needed to be amended in order to entice more foreign investments to enter the country.
Proponents of the People’s Initiative in the House, however, continued their campaign even after the 24-member Senate had been made to believe that the congressmen had agreed to stand down.
As a result, the entire Senate issued a statement lambasting the continued House support for the People’s Initiative.
Even a compromise agreement proposed by some congressmen for the Senate and the House to amend the charter via a constituent assembly was rejected by the upper chamber of the bicameral Congress, as this would dilute their influence.
Under a constituent assembly, the vote of each senator would be the same as each congressman/woman, thereby diluting their strength. The 24 senators could easily be outvoted by the more than 300 lawmakers of the House of Representatives.
Said Sen. Marcos: “Until now, he (the President) says that we need to study it and consult legal luminaries, the (Comelec) on its own has also said that the signatures are still alive, there’s no deadline, there’s no expiry date, they can be reused and recycled for future effort.”
The signatures gathered so far were “illegally and unconstitutionally obtained,” she added.
The President himself had indicated that he doubted that the People’s Initiative was still “one of the options that remain for us.”
Other senators such as Minority leader Koko Pimentel had stated that there is no enabling law on how the People’s Initiative should be held, which makes all the steps already taken as possibly null and void.
Sen. Marcos also said that charter change is not an urgent concern of the country at present.
Anti-charter change sectors say there is nothing wrong with the 1987 charter, citing the fast growth of the Philippine economy during the Ramos and second Aquino presidencies.
Allowing foreign ownership of land as well as local media was also considered unpalatable for various quarters.
The likes of Senator Bato dela Rosa also pointed to Speaker Romualdez as having released funds for local government units to initiate signature campaigns for charter change. The Senate has been pushing for an investigation on the reported use of government funds to finance the People’s Initiative. Signature collectors have also been accused of bribery to gather support for the initiative.