I have just arrived from an interesting two-day seminar on constitutional change sponsored by the Ateneo School of government and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Tagaytay. The seminar was significant: it was the first time that key proponents and oppositors of the GMA Cha-cha in the past came together to share ideas, take stock of the current Charter change efforts, and attempt to define future possibilities.
Among those who attended were the president’s ConCom Chairman Jose Abueva, the president’s ConCom secretary-general and Advocacy Commission Chairman Lito Lorenzana, Atty. Raul Lambino of Sigaw, former Congressman and Chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Reforms, now Cagayan de Oro Mayor Constantino Jaraula, former Presidential Adviser on Constitutional Reforms and current PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio, Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Liberal Party ExeCom member Butch Abad, Atty. Musib Buat of the MILF Negotiating Panel, Akbayan Chairperson Dr. Joel Rocamora, and UP College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen.
What was interesting was the turn-about of those who were most vigorous in pursuing the president’s charter change agenda in 2005-6 to favor constitutional convention over constituent assembly (also a surprising pro-Constituent Assembly position from unexpected sources), the common conclusion of the futility of pursuing it under GMA’s term (until 2010), and the sober assessment that we do need charter change for the right reasons.
Some of those who came are of course identified with former Speaker Jose de Venecia and may have reflected the latter’s own turn-about on Charter change. However, it is also a sign of the deepening cleavages in the ruling coalition and the increasingly uncertain loyalties to the president that is plaguing its ranks. It is worthwhile now to revisit past political assumptions regarding the political staying power and the numbers in relation to the Arroyo administration. The current GMA charter change initiative increasingly takes on the character of a lonely, desperate campaign.
The GMA charter change initiative is an uphill proposition at this time. We are now in the transition to the 2010 election scenario–the initiative’s fate will be resolved in the immediate few weeks.