Oct 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/12/06MANILA4954.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA4954 2006-12-11 09:55 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO1461
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #4954/01 3450955
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 110955Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4226
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004954

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

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

REF: MANILA 4502

¶1. (SBU) Summary: As opponents, including the Catholic
Bishops’ Conference, planned rallies and protests against
transforming the lower House of Congress into a constituent
assembly to amend the Constitution, House Speaker Jose de
Venecia on December 9 instead called on the Senate to support
a constitutional convention. Planning for the May 2007
national elections will proceed as planned, with the only
outstanding issue whether or not simultaneously to vote for
delegates for a constitutional convention. Despite the
charter change distractions, Congress has continued to make
progress on some important legislation — record time
deliberations on the national budget, approval of a bill
partially to automate the May 2007 elections, ratification of
the UN Convention Against Corruption, and even one step
closer towards approving an Anti-Terrorism bill. End Summary.

DEATH OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY MODEL?
—————————————-

¶2. (U) Following the defeat in the Supreme Court of a
“People’s Initiative” (reftel) to amend the Constitution to
transform the current bicameral presidential system to a
unicameral parliamentary model, charter-change proponents in
the House of Representatives, led by Speaker De Venecia, have
focused their efforts on amending the Constitution through a
constituent assembly, in which the existing Congress could
amend or revise the Constitution “with a vote of
three-fourths of its Members.” Initially arguing that this
provision did not require separate votes in the two Houses
and claiming he had enough votes in the lower House to
achieve the three-fourths majority of the total number of
Congressmen and Senators, de Venecia then had to resort to a
strategy of amending the House rules to permit the formation
of a constituent assembly by the lower House only. The House
“invited” the Senate to attend nonetheless, but de Venecia
indicated that the House-formed constituent assembly would
begin deliberations on December 12.

¶3. (SBU) Opponents to the House decision quickly condemned
the move as hasty, manipulative, and unconstitutional. The
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)
organized a national prayer gathering to denounce the planned
assembly. The Bishops, in a pastoral letter to their
congregations, made the Church’s message clear: “No to
Constituent Assembly” and “No to Postponement of May 2007
Elections.” The Bishops of Baguio and Iloilo separately
described their strong opposition to the current constituent
assembly approach in discussions with Ambassador and DCM, on
December 7 and 8. “Brother Mike” Velarde, of the charismatic
Catholic group El Shaddai, also called on his congregations
to oppose any moves towards a constituent assembly. The
influential Iglesia ni Cristo had also indicated it would add
its opposition. All but one of the current 23 Senators
signed a resolution declaring the House move
unconstitutional, adding more fuel to the fire against de
Venecia’s plan.

¶4. (U) In an emotional press conference on December 9, de
Venecia announced that he was willing to postpone the
constituent assembly and entertain calls for a constitutional
convention instead. He proposed election of the delegates
simultaneously with the May 2007 elections, which he
indicated he would no longer seek to delay. De Venecia
asked that the Senate decide by December 13 whether it would
support this move; if not, he promised to return to his
constituent assembly model. The Senate overwhelmingly
rejected the three-day deadline but initiated hearings on a
constitutional convention on December 11. In a majority
caucus of the House on Monday, allies of de Venecia
encouraged him to surrender the constituent assembly and
focus on a constitutional convention, citing in part clear
signals from Malacanang.

CONGRESS SLOW BUT NOT STALLED
—————————–

¶5. (SBU) Despite the charter change debates, Congress has
continued to press forward with its legislative agenda, in
consultation with Malacanang. Most notably, at record speed,
the Senate approved the 2007 national budget, which is
estimated at USD 23 billion. The Senate’s version is lower
than that of the House, so a bicameral conference will have
to thresh out a compromise before Congress adjourns on
December 22. In 2006, the government operated on a reenacted
budget from the previous year due to Congress’s failure to
approve the budget bills.

MANILA 00004954 002 OF 002

¶6. (U) Another landmark legislation was “The Poll
Computerization Bill,” which will allow the Commission on
Elections to pilot-test automation machines in selected areas
during the May 2007 elections. It only awaits a Presidential
signature, although there is already open debate about
whether there is still enough time and/or budget to prepare.
On the heels of Transparency International’s annual report
listing the Philippines among the countries with very high
perceived corruption, the Senate recently ratified the 2003
UN Convention Against Corruption. The Anti-Terrorism Bill, a
version of which the House had already passed, has now moved
forward in the Senate, albeit with major amendments to
provide safeguards against possible law enforcement abuses.
As amended, the bill will next move through a second reading
in the Senate soon. It will inevitably face a bicameral
conference to reconcile the two bills, but senior officials
of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office remain
optimistic about the prospects.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified 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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