By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
The Supreme Court finally dismissed the petition seeking people’s initiative as a means of introducing change to the 1987 Constitution. The vote was very close as eight SC justices voted for the dismissal of the petition while seven voted against.
The SC ruled that the constitution does not allow revision through a people’s initiative, as the petitioners wanted, aside from the questionable way that the six-million-plus signatures were acquired.
People’s initiative is a mode of introducing amendments or partial change to the Constitution. Revision is the introduction of substantial changes, such as structural change in governmental system from presidential to parliamentary.
The forces opposed to cha-cha (charter change) thus happily view the latest SC move as a victory. The SC finally trashed the petition despite Malacañang’s covert maneuvers and pressures.
The remedy of the petitioners is to file a motion for the SC to reconsider its decision. Since the 8-7 vote was very close, they hope that some justices may change their minds and vote in their favor.
This can happen. Remember the SC decision declaring the Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional. After the pro-mining lobby filed its motion for reconsideration, the justices decided to change their votes and declared the Act as constitutional. That can happen as the decision is not yet final. Hence, no need for anti-chacha forces to be overjoyed as yet.
We should also note that there were previous other SC decisions considered to have introduced changes to our Constitution.
Remember the case entitled Tañada vs. Angara. After the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) was ratified by the Senate led by Senator Edgardo Angara, Wigberto Tanada brought his opposition to the high court.
Tañada raised that GATT violates the constitutional provision on Filipino control over the economy, because the treaty liberalized the entry of foreign goods and services which, in fact, would kill local businesses. But the SC ruled GATT constitutional, with justices arguing that Filipino goods can be exported to other countries under the reciprocity doctrine.
Due to that decision, foreign goods and services are now flooding our local market. Imported farm products are now competing with the locally-produced farm produce right in our backyard. In fact, imported flowers are now being sold in Baguio City for the All-Saints’ holidays at cheaper prices than those of locally-produced flowers.
Still in line with economic liberalization, the SC ruled in the case of La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association et al vs. DENR (G..R. No. 127882) that foreign capital can engage in the mining industry even beyond the 40%-ownership limit. Even 100% foreign-owned firms can engage in the mining industry, the SC ruled, provided that their mode of involvement is only through the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).
By the way, I need to point out that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was an author of both the Senate GATT Resolution and the Mining Act of 1995. Despite a questionable mandate, she is now in power. What is she in power for? The SC decision on the people’s initiative can still be changed through her influence. Hence, I believe it is still too early for the anti-chacha forces to celebrate. #