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Tolentino says Senate must unite on Cha-cha; CBCP pans initiative

Vito Barcelo

Senator Francis Tolentino on Friday said the Senate should take a united stand amid a push to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate committee on constitutionalamendments and revision of codes, said he hoped the senators could discuss a collective stand on Charter change when the session reopens on Jan. 22.

In a radio interview, Tolentino said he and 15 other senators met Wednesday to discuss “urgent concerns,” including alleged bribes being given to push for Charter change through a people’s initiative.

Several senators have expressed concern the people were being offered P100 for their signature in a people’s initiative campaign to revise the Constitution.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday called on the Filipino faithful to reject a signature campaign for Charter change through a people’s initiative.

Catholic Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay in northern Palawan province made the appeal amid allegations of payouts in exchange for signatures.

Pabillo, who is the chairman of the CBCP’s Commission on the Laity, urged people not to sign any papers that will push for the Charter change.

“Tell people not to sign! This is not an initiative of the people but of some politicians,” Pabillo said.

He is the first bishop to openly speak against the current attempts to amend the nation’s Constitution.

Its proponents in the House of Representatives said the amendments would only focus on the economic provisions of the Constitution, which restricts the flow of foreign capital into the country.

Charter change can be done through Congress, a constitutional convention, or through a people’s initiative upon a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters.

Each legislative district must also be represented by at least 3 percent of registered voters. There are currently over 67 million registered voters in the Philippines.

Amassing enough signatures would force the 24-member Senate to vote jointly with the 315-member Lower House.

“It will overpower the Senate,” Pabillo said.

In the past, the CBCP repeatedly emphasized that any moves for Charter change must be in the best interest of the people and the nation.

Also on Friday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it

will not allow its ‘Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating

Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (Tupad)’ program to be used to push for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma made the statement in reaction to the statement of Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares, who said thatonce the Constitution is amended, the next step is that ‘Tupad’ would be enacted into law.

Colmenares said people are being told to sign up for Charter change.

But Laguesma said Tupad’s main objective is to assist displaced workers and persons affected by natural calamities.

“You know we are able to distribute the assistance through collaboration and cooperation with local government units and accredited partners,” he said.

Laguesma reiterated that the department is not part of any move for Charter change.

“We are not part of any undertaking that does not adhere to the guidelines on why we have a program called Tupad,” he said.

DOLE will ask government investigating agencies to go after individuals supposedly spreading malicious information about Tupad.

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