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Castro suggests nationwide survey to see if majority of Filipinos want Charter change

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro on Thursday recommended conducting a nationwide survey to see if the majority of Filipinos want to amend the 1987 Constitution.

During the public hearing on proposals seeking Charter change before the House constitutional amendments panel, Castro said the participation of the Filipinos is very important in the discussion of the constitutional changes.

“Pwede po kaya before we go to the Chacha mag-ano muna tayo talaga ng general survey sa ating mamamayan kung talagang gusto nila yung Chacha bago tayo magpatuloy ng mga ganitong usapin,” Castro said.

(Before we go to the Chacha, can we do a general survey of the public to see if they really want it, before we continue with this matter.)

She added that there was a lack of interest in the subject, even in the chamber. “Kailangan talaga [na] ang Charter change, ang mga constitutional na pagbabago, nilalahukan' yan ng maraming mamamayan. Kasi napakahalaga, this is a fundamental law of the land. Kailangan participation ng ating mamamayan,” she added.

(The participation of the people is important in Charter change or constitutional amendments because this is a fundamental law of the land. We need the participation of our people.)

Professor Aries Arugay, chairman of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science, also agreed to the recommendation, adding that the Congress could establish an independent body to create a nationwide “pulse-sensing.”

“Definitely po. Our department also recommends going beyond simply a survey na siyempre randomly selected 'yan, 1,200 [respondents]. Consultations direct to all popular sectors by maybe an independent body that Congress may create can do really a nationwide pulse-sensing of the popular sentiment,” Arugay said.

He said that this was also done in other countries, particularly in New Zealand when they changed their electoral system.

“They actually created an independent body that went around the country... beyond soliciting the proposals, just to have a feel [of nationwide sentiment]. Kasi po magbabago tayo ng Constitution nang karamihan sa ating mga kababayan ni hindi ito nabasa, masyado daw mahaba [para sa kanila],” Arugay said.

(We want to change the Constitution when many of our compatriots have not read it.)

“But there are countries where the people own the constitution. They have pocket versions of it sa mga bulsa nila [in their pocket]: sa Latin America, sa Venezuela for example, because that is also their way to activate and assert their rights according to the constitution,” he said.

But if we don't have that popular buy-in, medyo mahihirapan po [it will be difficult], there will always be clouds of doubt, of skepticism, so I think it will be the best service to the nation if there is local ownership of the process, and there is buy-in from the bottom, not merely by the top," Arugay said.

Castro expressed concern that the majority of the population did not know the constitution.

“Mayroon na palang nangyaring ganoon sa ibang bans. Baka pwede natin yun gawin bago ito. Kasi nakaka-worry kasi, 37 years na itong Constitution natin and yet 80% ng population hindi man lang alam ito kaya maraming mga violation sa Constitution, human rights violation, agawan lupa,” she added.

(It already happened in other countries, maybe we can do it also before doing this matter. It is very concerning because our Constitution has been in place for 37 years and yet 80% of the population did not even know it, so there are many violations of the constitution, human rights violations, and conflicts in land.)

Camarines Sur Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte earlier said that the cost of amending the 1987 Constitution by constitutional convention (con-con) could reach as high as P8 to P10 billion, but that the amount would be "worth it.”

The Constitution may be amended or revised through either a constitutional assembly (con-ass) of incumbent lawmakers through a three-fourths vote; or through a constitutional convention (con-con) made up of delegates elected by the people to propose revisions to the Charter. — BM, GMA Integrated News