Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/04/06MANILA1538.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA1538 2006-04-05 09:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO2644
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1538/01 0950900
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050900Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0382
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001538

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, INR/EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/05/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINS RP
SUBJECT: PROPONENTS PRESS FORWARD ON CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

REF: A. MANILA 641

¶B. MANILA 242
¶C. 05 MANILA 5965
¶D. 05 MANILA 4140

Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Pro-Administration groups are collecting
signatures for a “People’s Initiative” (referendum) on
Constitutional changes that would create a parliament with an
executive prime minister. If plans move forward, the
referendum might take place later this year. President
Arroyo and Speaker De Venecia are strongly backing the
effort, which the Opposition challenges. There are questions
as to the funding for the review the signatures and holding
of a referendum. The Supreme Court is likely to have to
weigh in on the legality of the procedure. Public interest
remains apparently low, despite the claimed signatures,
although the President’s unpopularity may make any change
appear desirable to many. End Summary.

———————
Collecting Signatures
———————

¶2. (U) On March 25, an umbrella organization of proponents
of Constitutional change (also known as “Charter Change”)
began a national signature campaign calling for a “People’s
Initiative” to amend the Philippine Constitution. The key
provision of the amendments would be to shift from the
current bicameral system with an executive president to a
unicameral parliamentary system with an executive prime
minister by 2010. Proponents of the referendum predict they
will succeed in collecting the requisite signatures — 12
percent of all registered voters nationwide (approximately 5
million people) and at least three percent of eligible voters
in every congressional district — within the next few weeks.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has
directed local government officials to assist in the
signature collection process.

¶3. (C) During an April 5 meeting, Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) Commissioner Resurreccion “Rex” Borra told poloff
that his organization had ordered its local registrars to
review fully all signatures gathered via the effort. He said
he expected COMELEC to finish verifying signatures within 15
to 30 days after completion of the effort, after which
proponents would likely file a formal petition with COMELEC
asking it to move forward with a referendum on the proposed
amendments. According to Philippine law, this referendum
should be held 45 – 90 days after certification of sufficient
signatures.

——————-
Malacanang on Board
——————-

¶4. (SBU) President Arroyo is strongly backing the effort to
hold a national referendum. In a March 30 speech, she said
the signature campaign on the proposed Constitutional
amendments demonstrates the “true power of the people in a
democracy to change their system of government.” Press
Secretary Ignacio Bunye praised the signature campaign as the

SIPDIS
best way of pursuing Constitutional change, saying it is time
to “take the debate down to the grassroots and discover the
people’s genuine sentiments.” House Speaker Jose De Venecia,
a strong supporter of shifting to a parliamentary system and
the whole referendum effort, has boldly predicted that a
referendum could be held as early as June, with a new
Parliament — composed of current members of the House and
Senate — installed by July of this year (ref A). In an
April 4 conversation with Pol/C, Raul Lambino, an attorney
who is working with Malacanang to lead the referendum drive,
said that De Venecia’s timetable clearly was overly
optimistic, but that “success” was possible by November or
December 2006. He acknowledged that moving forward on the
people’s initiative implicitly indicated the unlikelihood of
a successful constituent assembly to amend the Constitution.

———————————
Questions about Legality, Funding
———————————

¶5. (U) The Opposition has challenged the legality of the
“People’s Initiative” effort. Critics cite a 1997 Supreme
Court ruling that found the “People’s Initiative” mechanism
to be inadequate as a means of amending the Constitution in

MANILA 00001538 002 OF 002

the absence of passage by Congress of special “enabling”
legislation to call a national referendum to amend the
Constitution. In an April 5 conversation with Deputy Pol/C,
Opposition Congressman Ronnie Zamora asserted that this “lack
of implementing legislation would doom” the whole effort,
adding that the Opposition planned to bring a case before the
Supreme Court at “the earliest possible opportunity.”

¶6. (C) Funding has also been a question mark. In comments
he also made in recent testimony to the Senate, Commissioner
Borra said that COMELEC planned to continue to certify the
ongoing signature drive and that it had the manpower to
oversee a national referendum should the initiative move
forward. Borra admitted, however, that COMELEC did not have
sufficient funds to hold a national plebiscite at this time.
The House version of the 2006 GRP budget, which increases
COMELEC’s budget from 1.3 billion pesos (USD 26 million) to
3.2 billion pesos (USD 64 million), remains stalled in the
Senate. According to Commissioner Borra, a referendum would
cost an estimated two billion pesos, or USD 40 million to
implement.

——-
Comment
——-

¶7. (C) With the Supreme Court almost certain to get involved
in blessing (as many expect it eventually will, despite its
own precedent) the people’s initiative and plebiscite model,
Constitutional changes still remain far on the horizon.
Despite the reported success of the signature campaign (along
with many allegations of bribery and/or local level peer
pressure by “barangay” officials), there are few indications
of genuine public interest in or support for amending the
Constitution, and even less clear understanding of the
political virtues of a unicameral parliamentary model. The
President’s widespread and apparently growing unpopularity
may nonetheless make the prospect of any change more
desirable.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

Kenney

   

 

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