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Senate manifesto condemns ongoing people's initiative

The 24-member Senate on Tuesday released a manifesto condemning the ongoing people's initiative, which seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution by allowing all members of Congress to jointly vote on proposed constitutional amendments in a constituent assembly.

The manifesto was read by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri during the Senate session on Tuesday, or a day after the senators conducted a caucus on Charter change.

"We respect and recognize the people as our sovereign, with the right to call for Constitutional amendments. We must, however, guard against any sinister and underhanded attempt to change the Constitution by exploiting our democratic process under the guise of a people's initiative," the manifesto read.

"This so-called 'people's' initiative (PI) proposes only one change: in acting as a constituent assembly, the Senate and the House shall 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," it added.

The Senate expressed concern that if this people's initiative prospers, further changes to the Constitution can be done with or without the Senate's approval and even absent all the senators.

They further warned that voting jointly in a constituent assembly would not allow the senators to "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. To allow joint voting will destroy the delicate balance on which our hard-won democracy rests," the manifesto read.

"It will destabilize the principle of bicameralism and our system of checks and balances. With this change, the Senate is left powerless to stop even the most radical proposals: We cannot protect our lands from foreign ownership; We cannot stop the removal of term limits or a no election scenario in 2025, or worse, in 2028," it added.

For the Senate, "it is ridiculous" that the co-equal chamber of the House "will have a dispensable and diluted role in Charter Change," which they said is 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."

All 24 senators signed the manifesto, including charter change advocate and Senate constitutional amendments and revision of codes chairman Robin Padilla.

In signing the manifesto, Padilla noted that he is for constitutional changes and he supports the three modes of amending the charter.

However, Padilla said he is against Congress voting jointly.

Last week, Zubiri revealed that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. himself bucked the efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution through a people's initiative.

The Senate chief said Marcos had asked the Senate to take the lead in reviewing the economic provisions of the Constitution—a request which is contrary to the Senate president's earlier stand that Cha-cha is not a priority of the upper chamber.

This prompted Zubiri, together with the second highest officer in the chamber, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, and Senator Sonny Angara to file Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 (RBH 6).

On Monday, RBH 6 was referred to the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.

Earlier in the day, Senator Joel Villanueva said many senators expressed during the caucus that they are no longer interested in RBH 6 because the people's initiative was pushed by the leaders of the House of Representatives. — VDV, GMA Integrated News