By Artchil B. Fernandez
Last year ended well for Team Tigre. This year however started with Team Agila gaining ground. The plot of the political drama gripping the nation – War of Houses aka Cocaine-Fentanyl War, is full of suspense, keeping everyone on the edge. At this point, it is hard to predict the outcome of this epic clash.
The fight between House Duterte and House Marcos hooked the nation besting all the teleseryes airing on national television. Even the leading prime time drama “Batang Quiapo” is no match to the Team Agila-Team Tigre production.
To recall, 2023 was “annus horribilis” to the Dutertes. Sara Duterte was severely mauled in the confidential fund issue. She became a “meme” sensation in an unpalatable way and was badly bruised. It appears the political fortune of the Dutertes is waning.
Team Agila on the other hand had the best time in 2023. It had the upper hand in the brewing fight, looks invincible and gloats for outsmarting the competition.
Beaming with confidence Team Tigre assumed it had effectively neutralized the other side and is in full control of the situation. Feeling invincible, Team Tigre pushed its luck and embarked on a political project to further advance its agenda of entrenching itself in power.
Out of nowhere, a long-forgotten group Pirma resurfaced pushing charter change through People’s Initiative. The group wanted to amend the 1987 Constitution with the Senate and the House of Representatives voting jointly.
The Senate was alarmed by the move of Pirma. If successful, it will defang the Senate and render it inutile in the process of amending the Constitution. The 24-member Senate can be easily outvoted by the 316-member House.
At first the Senate tried to stave-off the effort of Pirma by declaring openness to charter change on the condition that only the economic provisions of the Constitution will be touched. The Senate also launched an investigation on the effort of Pirma as stories circulate of widespread signature buying and other anomalous practices in gathering the signatures.
During the Senate hearing it was revealed that the House is behind the move of Pirma. Lead convenor Noel Oñate of Pirma admitted in the hearing his group is working with members of the House to get 3 percent of the signatures in their districts. The Senate also successfully ferreted out admission from Oñate that he met with Speaker Martin Romualdez and sought his help. It appears Pirma is merely a tool of the House.
An incensed Senate rejected the move of the House to amend the Constitution through People’s Initiative. Senators were unanimous in thrashing the House for its insidious maneuver to castrate the Senate and render it useless in the process of constitutional change. Senate cries treachery.
Speaker Romualdez denied he had a hand in People’s Initiative despite declaring in December last year that he favors this mode of charter change. He claims he was a mere “facilitator” not an “orchestrator.”
Facilitating the signature campaign goes against the concept of people’s initiative. Initiative means people wanted charter change “on their own violation” without outside interference. How can it be a genuine initiative of the people if politicians are behind it? Stories of bribery through promises of projects and other goods surfaced during the Senate hearing make the House-backed move bogus.
Due to the uproar in the Senate, the Comelec suspended the process of verifying the signatures and stopped accepting them. House people’s initiative fizzled out.
It seems House Speaker Romualdez has overreached in his charter change move. He assumed he can outsmart and outmaneuver the Senate in the same way he did to Sara Duterte in the confidential fund issue. Speaker Romualdez whom the vice president derogatorily called Tambaloslos has badly miscalculated in his charter change push.
Team Tigre is paying a heavy political price for Tambaloslos’ overreached. Aside from earning the ire of the Senate and stopping the People’s Initiative on its track, Speaker Romualdez’ blunder had given the Dutertes opportunity to strike back and regain the upper hand in the current tiff between erstwhile allies.
The Dutertes positioned themselves as the defenders of the Constitution and is using charter change as an issue to attack the current administration notwithstanding the fact that Du30 also tried to amend the Constitution during his rule. Nevertheless charter change becomes the rallying cry of the Dutertes albeit hypocritically to put House Marcos on the defensive. The Dutertes are seizing the charter change issue to rebrand themselves as the “opposition.” Charter change gives them ammunition to counterattack.
Had Tambaloslos did not resurrect the highly controversial charter change project, the Dutertes would not have a chance to recover from their misfortune last year, given an opening to hit back, and be on the offensive. The Dutertes are using the charter change dispute to verbally abuse Bongbong Marcos (BBM) and destabilize his administration. The charter change issue handed the Dutertes an excuse to publicly vilify BBM.
Du30’s threat to secede Mindanao from the country by gathering signatures in the island is an effective counterfoil to the signature gathering of Tambaloslos for charter change. If Speaker Romualdez can change the Constitution through fake People’s Initiative why can’t Du30 do the same to separate Mindanao from the Philippines?
Speaker Romualdez realized too late his overreach in foisting before the nation a phony People’s Initiative. Drunk with a win over Team Agila in the confidential fund altercation, he thought the same success can be repeated. How wrong he is.