Most Filipinos don’t want Constitutional amendments, let alone the wholesale rewriting the advocates of charter change (“Cha Cha”) favor. That’s what the most recent surveys say.

The March 2006 Pulse Asia survey found that 54 percent of Filipinos oppose amending the Constitution. Some 33 percent are in favor, while 13 percent are undecided. A huge 64 percent oppose the proposal to change the present bicameral legislature (with its House and Representatives and Senate) into a unicameral one (meaning without the Senate), while 79 percent oppose proposals to allow foreign ownership of land, among others.

The proposals to shift to a unicameral parliamentary system and to open the economy to foreign penetration by allowing foreigners to own land and mass media companies, and to control public utilities, are among the pet proposals of the House-Malacanang conspiracy to rewrite the Constitution. The Pulse Asia findings may thus indicate that Filipinos still want the Senate to check a House of Representatives no one has ever accused of independence, and in addition oppose deleting the provisions of the Constitution which ban foreign ownership of land and mass media as well as 100 percent ownership of utility firms.

Another March 2006 survey, by the Ibon think-tank, found opposition to Cha Cha even higher at 76 percent of those aware of the proposal, while only 16 percent are in favor. Six percent said they had no opinion, while two percent chose not to answer.

Ibon says the 2006 figures show that opposition to Constitutional amendments has been growing since 2004. Some 47 percent of Filipinos said in March 2004 that they opposed Cha Cha, with 17 percent in favor. By March 2005, those opposed had grown to 51 percent, with 24 percent saying they were in favor. (The rest had no opinion or did not answer.)

Given the results of these surveys (which tend to confirm each other), how can the proponents of Cha Cha claim there’s a clamor for it, and boast at the same time that they will exceed the number of signatures required for a people’s initiative? Various local governments claim that together they’ve amassed millions of signatures and are in the middle of amassing millions more. The instigators of the government drive cynically named a “people’s initiative” are so certain they’ll get what they want they’re already talking about who should be prime minister.

Have they somehow managed to fortuitously “consult” only those who favor charter change, who total 33 percent and 16 percent in the Pulse Asia and Ibon surveys, respectively, plus the “undecideds” and “don’t knows”? If they have, it would have been quite a feat, because it seems that all the members of every household they’ve talked to, plus all those who cared to attend the “barangay assemblies” they called, were uniformly in favor of Cha Cha.

Statisticians and survey takers will tell you that this is impossible. The local government leaders at the beck and call of Malacanang, and its Department of Interior and Local Government manipulators, were more likely to have encountered Filipinos refusing to sign their so-called “people’s initiative” rather than those willing to do so. The former are after all in the majority.

The only way anyone can explain the outstanding success of the House, the DILG and its “private sector” cohorts in amassing all those signatures is that the people they’ve managed to sign up either (a) didn’t know what they were signing, (b) were “convinced” through various “gifts” including cash to sign, (c) thought Cha Cha would put food on their tables and a roof over their heads, or (d) were all of the above.

This being Holy Week, here is how the Sinag ecumenical group describes what could have happened (Sinag is composed of several religious groups including the Association of Major Religious Superiors):

“Widespread and credible reports of how [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s] unconscionable operators continue to bribe the starving poor with government funds, to fool the unschooled and unlettered with legal garbage, and even to seduce conscientious local officials and some church leaders with expensive gifts, only show how low [Mrs. Arroyo] is capable of stooping just to be able to stay in Malacanang.”

That sounds as if the answer can’t be but “(d)”. But it also provides an answer to this year’s most Frequently Asked Question, which is, Why is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo doing all these (Charter Change, Proclamation 1017, EO 464, the no-permit-no-rally and Calibrated Preemptive Response policies, the harassment and intimidation of the media, etc., etc.)? If you didn’t before, now you know.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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