Fr. Bernas is Wrong
Far too long, I have suffered in silence against the attacks on the virtue of the people’s initiative, an enlightened provision in the 1987 Constitution.
Far too long, my ears grate whenever I hear the case of Santiago v. Comelec harped upon in ANC, the print outlet and even in the demagagosphere as though all those who have written and commented upon that case read it from incipient to prologue. I daresay that most of those who read it only bothered to read the dispositive portion. I even daresay that most have not read the dissenting opinions of Mr. Chief Justice Panganiban or Justice Puno.
Far too long, I have heard the name of Fr. Bernas, S. J., bandied about, as the pre-eminent amicus curia on constitutional matters. Frankly, I have been dulled by his monotonous, faux accent that is neither Arrneow, British or Bicolano. I am wearied hearing his arguments. What are his arguments that regurgitate in the bowels of Philippine media?
Essentially, three things in its barest minimum.
First, there is no enabling law; Second, change of the system of government is not covered by the people’s initiative; and third, the Supreme Court will preserve the wisdom of Santiago v. Comelec.
Fr. Bernas argues that there is no such law. But of course there is! The law is R. A. 6795 and the law is sound. The issue in Santiago v. Comelec is no longer the issue in Legion of BOLA’s petition. In Santiago, the petition filed before COMELEC was clearly deficient. It did not attach in the petition the requisite 12% and 3% votes as required under the Constitution. The petitioner in the Santiago case even had the gall to ask the COMELEC to accept its petition without those signatures.
But in the Legion of BOLA’s petition, the signatures were secured not only by hook and by crook, the signatures were secured by way of Jollibee, KFC, McDonald’s etc. (I should get paid for these!). But we digress.
The Santiago decision penned by former Chief Justice Davide was splitting rails. He argued that the initiative on the Constitution was an afterthought. Too much of the technicalities were highlighted. The letter of the law was stressed to kill the spirit that giveth life. Even Senator Roco, the author of the law and not exactly a friend of Mr. FVR Tabako, argued that the law was sound and capable of amending the constitution.
Fr. Bernas conveniently forgot the dissenting opinions of Puno and Panganiban who gave emphasis on the spirit of the Constitutional Commission which bear and brought forth to life the provisions on initiative and referendum. Lest anyone forget, Fr. Bernas was one of the midwives of the 1987 Constitution.
Fr. Bernas also conveniently forgets that today’s dissenting opinion can become tomorrow’s majority opinion. US jurisprudence on civil rights, right-to-life cases are proofs of such truism. But he chose to close the avenue for the Supreme Court to change their views with his body language, during his interview with Ricky Carandang, that if the Brethren do so, they will be the most ridiculous Supreme Court justices that ever sat in this jurisdiction.
Yes, Virginia, there is an enabling law and the GMA justices have but to highlight the dissenting opinions of Puno and Panganiban to find justification for the High Court to abandon the ruling in Santiago v. Comelec. The majority fiddled with technicalities, the dissenting justices harped on the spirit of the law in Santiago. For that reason, Santiago could not be ironclad in substance. And those who invoke Santiago should well be reminded that technicalities are almost always frowned upon.
Second, Fr. Bernas insists that changing the form of government is a revision not covered by a people’s initiative. Revision, amendment, what’s in a name? A muddied rose, by any other name, will still smell as foul. Again, Fr. Bernas is toying around with technicalities.
He forgets that the people have spoken and therefore, by hook, by crook, by Jollibee, KFC or McDonalds (I should get paid for these plugs), it has by means, fair or foul, become the voice of God, Lucifer, Baal, Beelzebub whatever! So, what is wrong even if we forego the consti-technical requirements? The Legion has so far complied with the 12%-3% rule. To paraphrase Congressman Cayetano, takot ba ang Black and White Movement, ang One Voice sa People’s Initiative for Charter Change ng BOLA?
At the end of the day, we challenge those who oppose charter change to fight it out in the referendum. Let all the voices be heard. Let us forego technicalities!
The charter change issue is not as clearly black and white as the opposition makes it out, it has more than one voice that needs to be heard. We need a rainbow coalition to bring about change in our country and the only way to do that, to move on and stop all these politicking is to change the constitution so that after 2010, those who are against GMA will no longer contend with a President Gloria but a Prime Minister Gloria who will lead us to higher heights of whatever, basta higher being the operative word.
This nation will be great again.
And those who oppose the Legion, who obfuscate the issues, who muddle the discussions, who refuse to engage us in a referendum, and those who pontificate like Fr. Bernas and Manolo Quezon, those bishops who have abandoned their shepherd staff and taken on the sword, these are the people who have continued to restrain these country from its economic take-off. We have remained a midget economy through no fault of our president but due to these equally pompous fellows who think they are God’s gift to the Filipino people. And the Legion, are we not as well?
What these blundering fools refuse to believe is that the people are long suffering and tired and weary of politicking. Fr. Bernas is just the epitome of what is wrong with this country.
Therefore, let us join Legion’s campaign for charter change. We have nothing to lose but our minds!
And if you are convinced by BOLA's arguments, let us go and get the vote. Let us have a referendum! That is the gist and strength of our arguments.
Takot ba sila?