Not Cha-cha but ‘Macarena’
Not Cha-cha but ‘Macarena’
January 11, 2023
By Marvyn Benaning
Vantage Point II
Let’s not fool ourselves anymore. Charter change is an idea whose time has gone even as it has become a calendar story every year since 1986, when the Marcos dictatorship was kicked out of Malacanang and a new Constitution was crafted and approved in a plebiscite the following year.
Pardon the play with Victor Hugo’s quip but the three modes for changing the Basic Law had been tried by the Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Duterte administrations and not one succeeded. There was the attempt to transform Congress into a constituent assembly but it fizzled out. A sort of a constitutional commission was also organized but it ended up like a can being kicked down the road by a clone of Ernest Hemingway. Yet, the indefatigable ones tried People’s Initiative (PI) during the unlamented Arroyo regime, but its pleadings were torched at the Supreme Court (SC), with lawyers for the PI, getting PI’d outside the court by millions of opponents.
Now, PI is back with a vengeance. Bad ideas really die hard. Months after Congress under the leadership of Speaker Ferdinand Marin Romualdez took another look at the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, now we find a well-oiled juggernaut for a PI that looks like a twin of what then Mayor Jejomar C. slew in Makati. It got ad placements on TV, particularly for channels hungry for cash, talking about EDSA-pwera or the ill-starred people left out of the “loot from EDSA.” The bad blurb easily pointed to the anti-EDSA forces as the culprit, and rightly so.
Yet, the anti-EDSA forces are themselves being eviscerated, with Team UNITY now battling over who has got the franchise for Charter change (Cha-cha) and who should benefit from the conspiracy to delete the Basic Law and who has the right to write the Constitution on a palimpsest to be overwritten in the years to come.
The way it looks, this is not really Cha-cha but a revival of the big hit of 1994, “Macarena,” sung by Los del Rio. They all loved the ditty but forgot what it was all about, the lyrics being Spanish. The song was a celebration of cheating by an ambitious material girl whose boyfriend got conscripted, and she did it with not one, but two of the poor guy’s friends.
“Macarena” wanted the best of three worlds. The proponents of People’s Initiative, Model 2024, also want the best of all worlds. Foreign investments, alien control of schools and practically all natural resources, smashing of Filipino control over retail trade (as if SM, Puregold, the Villar malls and the Ayala malls had not choked general merchandise stores), telecommunications, agriculture (it is not enough that 95% of milk comes from New Zealand, Australia, the US, and Europe, but perhaps foreign investments would help develop giant mangoes, garlic with better active ingredients, more nutritious pompano, apahap or bass, milkfish and sardines) and, oh well, liberalize the call center business, too. Let us now be a country for others.
Let us look at the latest political pornography that has washed up on our shores. For the PI to succeed, it has to create the mirage, call it the fata morgana in the waters of Leyte and Samar, that it has covered 253 congressional districts and 63 partylists for a total of 316 and welcomed by the people at large. No approval of a proposed Constitution by the mere raising of hands in retort to the question of “Gusto ba ninyo ng bigas?” Based on the statement by a senator, the budget per congressional district is P20-million each, so this means an allocation of P6.32 billion, including the 63 partylists. Apparently, there’s more cash to spread around, as Rep. Edcel Lagman claims an appropriation of P14-billion was inserted for Cha-cha in the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA.)
For the PI to move, the Constitution says proponents must get the support of 12% of all registered voters, and 3% of voters for each legislative district and everything must be reviewed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which must also hold a plebiscite to approve the proposed amendments. Since there are 65.75 million registered voters in the Philippines for the national and local elections held on May 9, 2022, the PI proponents must secure the signatures of 6.7465 million voters who must have been furnished a copy of the constitution and understood the changes sought by PI. They must print at least 8.5 million copies of the Constitution for perusal and an equal number of copies of their proposed changes. All told, the proponents must be spending at least P20-billion for this ill-starred venture. What about the management fee for the people who write the pablum about their “Macarena”? And are the foreign chambers of commerce also pitching in? What about the China lobby?
The author worked for Malaya, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror, was managing editor at BusinessPage, contributed to Philippine Daily Inquirer, did a column for Manila Chronicle under Noel Cabrera and contributed to news carried by two TV networks. Started journalism career at the pre-martial law Manila Times.