By Artchil B. Fernandez

One pet project of the present administration, charter change (cha-cha) seems to have bumped into a solid wall. Cha-cha is being rushed by the administration, pushing for its approval by the middle of the year. However, this move of Bongbong Marcos (BBM) and his administration is swimming against the current of public mood as revealed by Pulse Asia survey on the issue.

Pulse Asia conducted a survey to gauge public pulse on the present effort of the administration to amend the 1987 Constitution. It was done nationwide from March 6 to 10, 2024.

On the whole, the survey shows a strong rejection and opposition of Filipinos to charter change. Asked if the Constitution should be amended now, an overwhelming number, 88 percent or 9 in 10 Filipinos said NO. This figure indicates a 43 percent increase of those who oppose charter change compared to last year where only 45 percent said they were against the move.

Meanwhile, support for charter change in the latest Pulse Asia survey saw a huge drop with only 8 percent said they are in favor of the move today. Last year’s survey revealed that nearly half or 41 percent of Filipinos support charter change.

When respondents were asked if the Constitution “should not be amended now or any other time,” three-fourths or 74 percent of Filipinos said yes. In last year’s survey on the same question only 43 percent answered affirmative. This indicates a 31 percent increase of Filipinos who said the Constitution should not be amended “now or any other time.”

Opposition to charter change is fierce in Mindanao where 91 percent said “no” when asked if the Constitution should be amended now. The figure is followed by Balance Luzon where 89 percent answered negative to the same question. In the Visayas, 85 percent of those surveyed opposed charter change while in the National Capital Region (NCR) 81 percent registered their objection.

Rejection of charter change is also robust across all socio-economic brackets. Opposition is strongest in Class E where 93 percent said “no” to charter change. This is followed by those from Class D where 87 percent expressed the same sentiment. Eight in ten or 82 percent of those from ABC Class are also against amending the Constitution.

The public were also asked about the House initiated People’s Initiative (PI). More than two-thirds (67 percent) said they are aware of PI but 93 percent of these claimed they did not get the petition and only 7 percent did. Of the seven percent who received the People’s Initiative petition, only 24 percent said they signed it while three-fourths (76 percent) did not.

BBM and his administration touted that their cha-cha has no political motive and it is being done for the “welfare” of the people. They are only interested in changing the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow foreign entry into various areas of the economy.  In this aspect, the people ferociously rebuffed them.

Asked if they are in favor of allowing foreigners to own schools or universities, a huge majority, 68 percent said no. On the question “Should foreigners be allowed to have equity in mass media and advertising?” 7 in 10 or 71 percent of Filipinos answered negative. This is a 14-point increase from the previous survey where 57 percent were not in favor.

Respondents were also asked if they are in favor or not of allowing foreign individuals and companies to own residential and industrial lands. A high majority (81 percent) said “no” to this. This is a vicious rebuff to BBM, his officials and allies in Congress who are rabid advocates of land ownership for foreigners.

Allowing foreigners (individuals and companies) to exploit the natural resources of the country was raised by the survey. Nine in ten or 86 percent of those surveyed said they are “not in favor.” In the previous survey, 76 percent gave the same response indicating a 10-point increase of opposition to the proposition.

Lifting prohibition to foreign ownership on communications like cellphone and internet was asked by the survey. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of Filipinos are not in favor of the move. In the previous survey, more than half (53 percent) of Filipinos were also not in favor, an 18-percent increase of objection to the proposal.

Removing limits on shares of stock in Philippine corporations that maybe owned by foreign individuals and companies was included in the survey. Eight in ten (78 percent) of Filipinos said they are not in favor of the idea. In the previous survey over two-thirds (67 percent) of Filipinos turned down the proposal.

The pulse of the people is clear, the sentiment of Filipinos is crystal on charter change – they strongly reject the current move of the present administration to amend the 1987 Constitution. The opposition has even increased compared to previous survey across all geographical areas and in all socio-economic classes.

Even the main catch of cha-cha, changing the economic provisions of the Constitution to usher in economic “miracle” has not convinced Filipinos to change their position rejecting the proposals. The opposition to cha-cha the survey reveals has grown especially on the proposals concerning the economic provisions of the charter.

Given the current public sentiment on cha-cha, it appears the move is doomed. After the latest Pulse Asia survey on cha-cha was made public, the Senate is now more skeptical than ever on the project. The Senate also slowed down its push for cha-cha.

Any political project that lacks public support is bound to fail. BBM’s cha-cha is the latest example.