Padilla insults politicians in push for Cha-cha

In pushing for amendments to the 1987 Constitution, Sen. Robinhood Padilla is trying to promote an image of himself as a sincere legislator at the expense of politicians. Papogi, some would say of the neophyte senator who is used to the klieg lights as an action star.

Padilla prefers to be classified as a revolutionary rather than a politician. He had said he was just forced into politics but has remained a revolutionary to this day.

Kunin n’yo na lang po ang salita ng isang rebolusyonaryo. Ako po’y hindi pulitiko (Just take the word of a revolutionary. I am not a politician),” he told a media forum three weeks ago.

Padilla wants the public to trust him that — he is sincerely committed to amending only the economic provisions of the 36-year-old Constitution.

By describing himself as a revolutionary, Padilla makes a sweeping insinuation that politicians don’t have a word of honor and are only after their personal interest in seeking changes to the Constitution.

Ako po’y mag-iingay kapag ang usapan dito’y napunta na sa pulitika. Maniwala po kayo sa akin, hindi po ako kapit-tuko sa posisyon na ‘to (I will make noise when discussions go into politics. Believe me, I don’t want to hold on to this position),” he said.

In past administrations, from the time of the late president Fidel V. Ramos, proposals to amend or revise the 1986 Charter were almost always associated with efforts to either extend or remove term limits for national and local officials, even if some initiated the moves with a promise to touch only the economic provisions that they find restrictive.

Padilla was apparently aware of it. That’s why he wanted to dissociate himself from the previous Cha-cha initiatives. And he is doing it in a way that is unwittingly insulting to politicians who were behind moves to amend constitutional provisions other than the so-called nationalistic economic provisions, or those that limit the participation of foreign investors in economic activities in the country.

Even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was not spared Padilla’s self-serving statements for his Cha-cha push. Dismissing Marcos’ stand that Charter change was not a priority for him, Padilla said it was understandable because “this is not in [the president’s] mandate.” But he recalled that when Marcos was a senator, he also saw the benefits of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution to attract more foreign investments.

But while Padilla insists that his drive for constitutional amendments was not for any political agenda, he sounds like traditional politicians who claim that efforts to tinker with the Constitution is for the country, even if the changes they propose include removing the provision on term limits that directly affect them.

House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, for instance, justified the swift approval recently of House Bill 7352 which, if enacted, will be the enabling law to Resolution of Both Houses 6. He said last week that the 301 House members who co-authored the twin resolutions were “in a rush to amend these restrictive provisions of the Constitution” and that they were working hard “because the public interest is at stake.”

Hindi pulitika, kundi ekonomiya ng bansa. Hindi eleksyon, kundi misyon na iahon ang mga kababayan natin sa kahirapan (It’s not politics, but the country’s economy. It’s not elections, but the mission to uplift our countrymen from poverty),” he said, adding, “Kailan pa naging kasalanan ang mag-trabaho nang mabilis para sa bayan (When did it become a sin to work fast for the country)?”

Whew, big words! Doesn’t he sound like a superhero from a movie whose mission is to save the weak, the poor and the oppressed? Many of the politicians like Romualdez have been in public office for so long. Are the constituents they serve living better now? Or do they remain poor because they have not succeeded in their efforts to amend the Constitution? Is the Constitution the only stumbling block to their promise of a better life?

Senators and congressmen are supposed to be representatives of the people in the legislature. But why don’t they listen to the surveys which say that a majority of Filipinos reject their Cha-cha initiative?

So much public money and time have been wasted on these public consultations by legislators on their proposed amendments. If previous efforts to amend the Constitution that had the backing of former presidents Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during their time did not succeed, how can it be acceptable now when the incumbent president says it is not a priority?

The Constitution is not the problem. Investments may not be coming in because of factors such as inconsistencies in policies, corruption, law and order, labor issues and the like, not because of the Constitution.

Even if he doesn’t want to be classified as a politician, Padilla should stop wasting precious money and time to push for Cha-cha.


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.