LAWMAKERS from the Makabayan bloc said on Thursday that Congress should not be rushing amendments to the 1987 Constitution for the sake of having a referendum by next year’s mid-term elections.

“Don’t rush (amending) the constitution, this is the basic law of the land,” Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro, speaking partly in Filipino, told a media conference. “The amendments included in “Cha-cha” are extensive and shouldn’t be discussed lightly… It should not be included in the ballots for the midterm elections because it is cost-efficient.”

Earlier, the House of Representatives said that it aims to obtain a vote on the Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 for changes to the economic provisions of the Charter before the Holy Week break next month.

The Makabayan bloc has been against Charter change (“Cha-cha”), saying it is not the proper time to do so. 

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. had said the “Cha-cha” plebiscite could be alongside the midterm elections in May 2025.

But for the Makabayan bloc, attempts to change the Constitution require consulting and educating the people on the effects of the amendments. “The people should be included in the processes related to the issues sought after by changing the Constitution,” Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, speaking in Filipino, told the same press conference.

Commenting on the issue, WR Numero Numero president and chief executive officer Cleve Kevin Robert V. Arguelles said a Charter amendment plebiscite should place important consideration on ensuring meaningful participation from the constituents.

“The costs of the plebiscite should not be the overriding consideration in this case,” he said in a Viber message. “In amending the Constitution, the most important consideration is to ensure that the conditions of the plebiscite will be conducive to well-informed participation of all.”

Voting alone during an election is already a difficult task as an average voter has to pick from hundreds of candidates across national and local posts.

“They may likely to resort to shortcuts and be vulnerable to partisan noise and propaganda than really think deeply and fully about their choices as they exercise their ultimate power as citizens,” Mr. Arguelles said.

Filipinos are encouraged to study the amendment proposals sought on charter changes, Michael Henry L. Yusingco, a lawyer and a policy analyst, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“We cannot simply rely on lawmakers for this decision. We have to do the hard yards ourselves and study the amendment proposals on offer,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves, can we trust lawmakers with the responsibility of determining the actual legal framework for liberalizing these sectors?”

Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel, also Makabayan bloc, told the press conference that the “economic Cha-cha” is a presidential initiative.”

“This economic Charter [change] is the President’s initiative, and we cannot deny that the remarks of the President and him acting as liaison between the discussions of the Senate and House leaders reveals his hand (in Charter change moves),” said Mr. Manuel in mixed English and Filipino. — Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio