Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/10/06MANILA4502.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA4502 2006-10-27 09:15 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO1953
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DE RUEHML #4502/01 3000915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270915Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3671
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004502

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RP
SUBJECT: STRIKE ONE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

REF: A. MANILA 3565
¶B. MANILA 1638
¶C. MANILA 1538

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Following the October 25 Supreme Court
ruling against a “people’s initiative” to amend the
Constitution in order to form a unicameral parliamentary
system, supporters of charter change or “cha cha” will next
move to form a constituent assembly of the sitting Congress.
Given the unlikelihood of Senate support, that approach is
also likely to end up in the Supreme Court as well. The
other “cha cha” option — supported publicly by the head of
the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines — is a constitutional convention, composed of
specially elected delegates. Few are holding their breaths
that any major Constitutional changes are imminent, and most
observers expect that the May 2007 elections will proceed.
End Summary.

—————————————–
Supreme Court stops “People’s Initiative”
—————————————–

¶2. (U) On October 25, the Supreme Court, voting 8-7 (with
outgoing Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban casting the
deciding vote), upheld an August 31 decision by the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) declining to accept a
petition filed by “Sigaw ng Bayan” (Cry of the People) —
alleging endorsed by 10 million signatures — calling for
change to a unicameral parliamentary system. The basis for
COMELEC,s refusal had been a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that
there was inadequate enabling legislation for the “people’s
exercise of the power of initiative” to amend the 1987
Constitution. The Supreme Court’s 52-page decision, penned
by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, ruled that the
signatures failed to comply with the constitutional
requirement that the initiative must be directly proposed by
the people, who must understand the full text of the proposed
amendments before signing a petition. The Court also noted
that the signatures were obtained “deceptively,” with
signature sheets signed without the proposed amendments
attached.

¶3. (U) The Court also clarified that a “people’s initiative”
should be used only to amend — not to revise — the
Constitution, and that this petition sought an overhaul of
the entire political structure. The court affirmed that
COMELEC did not commit any grave abuses of discretion in its
August 31 decision on the petition, noting that COMELEC only
complied with the Supreme Court’s earlier injunction against
entertaining a people’s initiative without an adequate
enabling law.

¶4. (U) Justice Reynato Puno — a possible successor to Chief
Justice Panganiban, who retires in December — led the seven
dissenting justices. In his dissenting opinion, Puno did not
dwell on the technicalities of the law but stressed that the
people’s voice is sovereign in a democracy and must be heard.
“Sigaw ng Bayan” leader Raul Lambino separately stated that,
given the close vote, his group will now consider filing a
motion of reconsideration.

¶5. (U) Opponents of the “People’s Initiative” hailed the
Court’s decision. Former Senate President Franklin Drilon
lauded the high court for its &admirable sense of
independence,8 which has &restored people’s faith in the
rule of law8 and &reinforced confidence in the democratic
system and its institutions.8 The head of the influential
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop
Angel Lagdameo, publicly welcomed the Court’s decision “with
joy and appreciation.”

—————————-
Other Constitutional options
—————————-

¶6. (SBU) Supporters of Constitutional change now have two
remaining options. In addition to a people’s initiative,
Article 17 of the 1987 Constitution permits the formation of
a constituent assembly (a joint session of both houses of
Congress) or a constitutional convention of specially elected
delegates. The administration’s political allies in
Congress, led by House Speaker Jose de Venecia, are now
aggressively pursuing the former option, perhaps as early as
December 2006, despite the objections of an apparent majority
of Senators. De Venecia has asserted that the vaguely worded
Constitutional clause should enable a three-fourths combined
vote of both houses — even exclusively from the lower house,
if need be — rather than separate votes in each house, as is
normally required for all legislation. He admitted to

MANILA 00004502 002 OF 002

Ambassador and Pol/C that such a vote will inevitably face a
Constitutional challenge again to the Supreme Court, but
argued that this is a valid Constitutional issue worthy of
clarification. Many observers have expressed doubt, however,
that he would be able to secure the necessary 195 votes in
the lower house.

¶7. (U) The CBCP’s Archbishop Lagdameo publicly reiterated
support for a constitutional convention and pledged that the
bishops would “pray for it.” He commented, however, that
“any system of government, presidential or parliamentary or
monarchy, will be good if the leaders in it are
servant-leaders, men of credible integrity and transparent
accountability.”

——-
Comment
——-

¶8. (SBU) The defeat of “People’s Initiative” by the Supreme
Court is only strike one in the ongoing “cha cha” campaign.
Even if Speaker De Venecia succeeds in convening a
constituent assembly and passing a new Constitution (which he
has said could also include revised economic provisions as
well as the change to a unicameral parliamentary model) , the
inevitable Supreme Court challenge will force further delay.
Many legal experts predict that this effort will end up as
strike two in the “cha cha” campaign. The more complicated
— and, critics charge, highly expensive — process to agree
on a constitutional convention and to elect delegates (whose
debates could last indefinitely) would make the chances of
success for this option even more distant. Some observers
have claimed that the entire “cha cha” campaign has served
primarily as a political distraction over the past year from
the impeachment efforts against President Arroyo. Some also
claim that it will now serve the same function in the run-up
to the May 2007 elections, in which Malacanang may fear that
the Opposition could gain a majority, since so many stalwart
Administration supporters are barred from re-election due to
term limits. Overall, the debate over “cha cha” seems
concentrated principally among Manila’s political elites, and
has garnered remarkably little public interest, despite the
claimed success of the signature campaign of the now
discredited people’s initiative.

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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