Did the Senate blink? | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

Did the Senate blink?

/ 05:30 AM January 16, 2024

In a press conference Monday, Senate President Migz Zubiri announced the filing of a resolution calling for the amendment of certain economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution.  The senator from Bukidnon said charter change, particularly amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, is now a Senate priority as he co-authored a resolution to amend the charter together with senators Loren Legarda and Sonny Angara. 

After years of refusing to change the Charter via Constitutional Convention or constituent assembly, the Senate’s sudden change of heart raised not a few eyebrows. Since the 8th up to the 19th Congress, from 1987 to 2023 – or a total of 36 years – some 358 measures seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution were filed in the House of Representatives. Of this number, nearly a hundred bills called for amendment via legislation with both Houses voting separately. None of these proposals ever made it through the Senate. 

In a last-ditch attempt sometime last year, Congressional sources say that House Speaker Martin Romualdez reached out to Zubiri to consider legislation – to be passed by both Houses – to limit amendments only to the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions. But that, too, didn’t prosper.


Thus, as one lawmaker aptly put it, all House bills or resolutions proposing to amend the charter through any of the three modes provided for in the 1987 Constitution itself were “DOA or Dead-on Arrival” in the Upper Chamber.  Out of frustration, Constitutional reform advocates like the Ramos-era PIRMA (People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action) decided to revive their advocacy and take the matter directly to the people via People’s Initiative. So, what forced Zubiri and his colleagues to suddenly take the lead in amending the charter? Was it simply a change of heart, a genuine desire to amend the Constitution, or did the Senate blink?


It’s worth noting that despite harsh criticisms and opposition from senators and various interest groups, charter change advocates only became bolder. The signature campaign seems to be gaining traction. In fact, there are reports that certain districts in some provinces have already collected more than the required 3 percent of registered voters needed to launch an honest-to-goodness Charter Change campaign via People’s Initiative.

Due to threats that the signature drive could succeed, political observers say some senators started pushing the panic button. Indeed, if People’s Initiative would proceed and allows Congress and Senate to vote jointly, the Upper Chamber could be castrated, or worse, driven to extinction. With the signature drive well on its way, the Senate’s only option is to stop it or preempt the People’s Initiative by proposing amendments to the Constitution via legislation. Hence, the resolution filed by Zubiri and his allies.

While this may be considered a clever political move, it appears that the Senate was forced to change direction for their own political survival. In short, they were painted to a corner. According to Zubiri, no less than President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. requested the Senate to step in and study the possibility of amending parts of the Constitution. This is the same Marcos whose sister, Senator Imee, claims he is against tinkering with the post EDSA Charter.

Meanwhile, Speaker Romualdez who has always advocated Charter reforms must be ecstatic. After all, this is what he truly wanted: to liberate the country from the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions through whatever legal mode available. In the end, the Speaker becomes the winner in this political game of chess.

Modern Jeepneys program bred government corruption

LTFRB and MMDA are telling us commuters not to worry on today’s nationwide protest of “unconsolidated” and “traditional” jeepneys, soon to become illegal by February 1. LTFRB-NCR belittles the protests in Metro Manila since the non-compliant jeepney operators and drivers are a measly 600 and government’s coordinated response will be able to normalize public transport needs today. Included in the PUV modernization plan is a 24-hour jeepney operation wherein all driver’s income will be   salary-based and not by boundary.

Aside from the expected rallies today by member drivers of MANIBELA, PISTON and No to PUV Phaseout coalition, another battle will be decided by the Supreme Court as big jeepney organizations petitioned for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to terminate DOTR’s PUV modernization program, initiated 6 years ago by the past administration.  


Initially, they only allowed imported units from China where some cooperative jeepney leaders kowtowed but were later exposed of ‘overpricing” units and overburdening the traditional jeepney operator. Lately, government officials changed again and now accepts Filipino jeepney manufacturers if they comply to the PUV Modernization requirements. LTFRB says there are 32 available models of modern jeepney that are locally manufactured and locally assembled, but most of these range from P2.4 M to P2.8M. LTFRB Chair Teofilo Guadiz claims the lowest cost is at P1.6M and some local manufacturers offer upgraded units at P980,000.

Unconsolidated drivers claim that since new jeepneys are expensive, fares could go up to P50, but this was rebuffed by DOTR as preposterous and impossible. However, in the latest congressional probe, LTFRB admitted that drivers would have to earn from P6,000 to P7,000 a day to finance their bank loans and this can trigger fare hikes shouldered by the commuters.

I am all out for a better, modern PUJ. But a simple scrutiny of this issue indicates numerous mistakes by the PUV implementors, including possible graft and corruption. And until today, not a single LTFRB or DOTR official have been reprimanded or suspended.  Come February 1, we will observe keenly how government will chase arrest or impound these ‘unconsolidated”, historic, and traditional jeepneys bought from blood sweat and tears of the masa operator.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

To many, government regulators are hell bent and perhaps berserk to eliminate this once beloved “kings of the road”, in pursuit of their greedy agendas.

TAGS: Sharp Edges

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.