SENATOR RONALD “BATO” DELA ROSA PEOPLE’S INITIATIVE (POLITICIAN’S INITIATIVE) PRIVILEGE SPEECH

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Thank you, Mr. President, Majority Leader.

I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

Ginoong Pangulo, simula po noong nakamit natin ang ating kalayaan, walong bersyon ng konstitusyon ang umiral sa ating bansa: The 1989 Malolos Constitution, The Philippine Organic Act of 1902, The Jones Law of 1916, The 1935 Constitution, The 1943 Constitution, The 1973 Constitution, The 1986 Freedom Constitution, and our present Constitution, The 1987 Constitution.

Sa walong Philippine Constitution na aking nabanggit, tanging sa 1987 Constitution lamang po natin matatagpuan ang People’s Initiative bilang pamamaraan para amyendahan ang Konstitusyon. Isa po ang People’s Initiative sa mga probisyon na nagbibigay ng kapangyarihan sa mamamayan na magpasimuno ng reporma sa pamahalaan. In the words of Justice Panganiban in his separate opinion in the case of Miriam Defensor Santiago vs. COMELEC, and I quote “Initiative, like referendum and recall, is a new and treasured feature of the Filipino constitutional system. All three are institutionalized legacies of the world-admired EDSA people power. Like elections and plebiscites, they are hallowed expressions of popular sovereignty. They are sacred democratic rights of our people to be used as their final weapons against political excesses, opportunism, inaction, oppression and misgovernance, as well as their [reserved] instruments to exact transparency, accountability and faithfulness from their chosen leaders,” end of quote.

I repeat, Mr. President, “it is a sacred democratic right of our people to be used as their final weapons against political excesses, opportunism, inaction, oppression and misgovernance” — ito po ang isa sa purposes ng people’s initiative as envisioned by the framers of the 1987 Constitution. 

Pinahahalagahan po ng Saligang Batas ang gampanin ng mamamayan na siguruhin na patuloy na lalamanin ng mga pahina nito ang kanilang mga interes at kapakanan. After all, all government authority emanates from the people. However, if the people are being misled, deceived and coerced to sign a piece of document proposing to amend the Constitution for a certain amount of money, then the initiative is invalidated. Worse, its intentions are tarnished, the sacredness of initiative stained by selfish motives. 

Ang ipinagtataka po natin ngayon, bakit tila ang umiikot na so-called “People’s Initiative” ay isang “Politician’s Initiative”? Pareho pa rin silang PI, Mr. President. This is an insult and outright affront to the space, duly afforded to us by the Constitution, a space intended to accommodate our people’s capacity to introduce reforms.

Ginoong Pangulo, mga kababayan, mayroon pong tatlong pamamaraan upang baguhin ang mga titik ng ating konstitusyon. Ang dalawa sa tatlong proseso na ito ay nangangailangan ng direktang partisipasyon ng mga halal na mga mambabatas: mga kongresista at tayong mga senador. Nag-iisa po ang pamamaaran na nakareserba para sa taumbayan para amyendahan ang Saligang Batas. Ito po ang tinatawag natin na “People’s Initiative”.

Bakit po kaya hindi gamitin ng mga politician na nagsusulong ng “Politician’s Initiative” ang dalawang pamamaraan na nasa Konstitusyon kung gusto nilang baguhin ang ating Saligang Batas? Bakit hindi pa sapat sa ilang mga mambabatas na mapagkalooban ng dalawang pagpipilian para baguhin ang Konstitusyon? Kailangan ba na pati ang direktang inilaan para sa ating mga mamamayan ay kukunin at gagamitin ng mga gahamang politiko? 

Tila po Ginoong Pangulo, sa pagdaan ng mga araw, mas maraming katanungan pa ang nadadagdag kaysa mga kasagutan sa “Politician’s Initiative”. Pero isa po ang nabigyang linaw, mayroong mga kumikilos upang manlinlang ng ating mamamayan. Mga indibidwal at mga grupo na tila ang tingin lamang sa pamahalaan ay isang negosyo na pwedeng pagkakitaan. Handa silang mamuhunan sa pagbili ng mga pirma o lagda. Napakadali lamang, lalo na kung hindi naman kinabukasan ng bayan ang kanilang turing dito, kundi isang tseke na maaari nilang ipalit sa salapi pagdating ng panahon.

Nakalulungkot na ang pinagsasamantalahan ay siyang mga kababayan nating mga walang-wala sa buhay. Sila na mga nagdarahop at naghihikahos. Silang mga nagugutom at walang hanapbuhay. May mga pagkakataon na ilan sa ating mga kababayan na pumirma sa kaduda-dudang “People’s Initiative” ay wala nang ibang makapitan kundi patalim. Kapalit ng munting halaga, ay pagsangla ng kaluluwa. 

Nakagagalit na silang mga bulnerable ang palaging target ng panlilinlang ng mga pulitikong may mga pansariling motibo. Nakakapanlumong isipin kung paano sinamantala ang kahirapan sa buhay ng mga mamamayan, para lamang sa pansariling kapakanan ng mga nasa kapangyarihan. 

Minsan naiisip ko, Mr. President, kung nangyari ito noong bata pa ako, malamang, kasama ang aking mga magulang sa mga hihikayatin nilang pumirma. At dahil mahirap lang kami, baka nga pumirma sila. Kaya ganoon na lamang ang aking galit, Mr. President, sa pananamantalang ito. Pumirma ka na lang, bahala na kung hindi mo naiintindihan. Hindi bale, may P100 ka o kaya P3,000. May pang hapunan na kayo ng pamilya mo.

I feel it is my obligation to stand up for the poor, because I know what it is like to believe that you do not have a choice. It is my obligation to tell every single one who is listening to me right now, be it inside these halls or on some video being aired: you always have a choice. And this Senate is ready to support you in making a real, informed, dignified choice.

Ginoong Pangulo, nais ko pong susugan ang pananawagan ng ating Majority Leader, Senator Joel Villanueva. Hinihikayat po natin ang ating mga kababayan na niloko, pinilit, maging iyong mga nakatanggap ng panunuhol kapalit ng kanilang pagpirma sa isang dokumento, kung saan hindi malinaw sa paglahad kung anong reporma [ang] gustong i-amyenda sa Kontitusyon. Lumantad kayo at huwag matakot. Tulungan niyo po ang inyong Senado na [papanagutin] ang mga nagsamantala sa [inyong] mga kahinaan.

Laging bukas ang bulwagan ng Senado at handang pangalagaan ang sino mang nais magsiwalat ng katotohanan at nagmamahal sa ating bayan.

May kasabihan po tayo: Walang manloloko kung walang magpapaloko. But you know, Mr. President, I think this saying is a case of victim-blaming, lalung-lalo na sa sitwasyong ito. Sa kasalukuyang panahon, tingnan natin ito mula sa ibang perspektiba. Patawan ng parusa ang mga nanloloko at huwag ipataw ang sisi sa mga inosenteng naloko. If the ill-intentioned have done their part in attempting to distort and destroy the very spirit of initiative, I implore this Senate: let us not allow such distortion to succeed. Let us take the initiative, so to speak, to protect our people from sinister motives. Protect, most, especially, the ones who are unable to do it for themselves.

The Senate does not, and will never, infringe on the right of the people to exercise their right guaranteed by the Constitution. Justice Panganiban declares that, and I quote, “The right to propose amendments to the Constitution is really a species of the right of free speech and free assembly. And certainly, it would be tyrannical and despotic to stop anyone from speaking freely and persuading others to conform to his/her beliefs. As the eminent Voltaire once said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” After all, freedom is not really for the thought we agree with, but as Justice Holmes wrote, “freedom for the thought that we hate,” end of quote. 

I would like to assure our Filipino people that the Senate, as the last bastion of democracy, does, and always will support the people’s clamor to institute reforms. Whether these would be crafting laws or amending the Constitution itself. The Senate exists because of the people, and we will continue to push for the uplifting of the life of every Filipino. 

In the event that our people would come to truly believe that it is only through their own efforts that they can rewrite the letters of the Constitution, to a form and content that they think embodies their ideals, I am sure that the Senate will be the first to support.

However, the Senate will also be the first to condemn if the right to people’s initiative is being bastardized by enterprising politicians. The Senate will not allow and will therefore condemn any form of threat, coercion or bribery that compromises the future of our country and our people.

I call on the persons behind this deceptive and fraudulent people’s initiative: Make amends. Not to our Constitution, but to the people, our people, whom you have maliciously enticed to unknowingly sell their future.

Maraming salamat, Mr. President.

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