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FIRING LINE: What legal minds think of Cha-cha

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Since the group People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma) surfaced last month with its campaign to force a move for Charter change or Cha-cha, political divisions in the ruling party became well-defined.

It’s challenging to listen to debates between senators and members of Congress over the issue because while they make good arguments, our better judgment sees through the vested interests and political bickering upon which they are rooted.

So, let me share the insights of the legal minds who have stepped up and spoken about how they view this drive to amend the republic’s 36-year-old Constitution.

Retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. minced no words, branding any attempts to tinker with the Charter as a “cha-cha dance leading straight to the grave or to hell.” With the precision of a seasoned jurist, he dismantled the notion that economic woes could be solved by amending constitutional provisions, asserting instead that such moves would birth more significant problems.

Christian Monsod, former Commission on Elections chairman and constitutional framer, echoed the same sentiments, emphasizing the pressing need to address the quality of education rather than indulging in constitutional acrobatics. His scathing rebuke highlighted the stark reality of Filipino students lagging in global assessments, puncturing holes in the argument for Charter change.

Vicente Mendoza, a retired Supreme Court associate justice, dropped a legal bombshell by asserting that the current Constitution mandates separate voting by the House and the Senate in a constituent assembly. His meticulous dissection of constitutional intent and precedent left no room for ambiguity: any attempt to bypass this procedure would be legally untenable.

Adolfo S. Azcuna, another former High Court magistrate, struck at the heart of the matter by arguing against embedding ownership restrictions in the Constitution. His call for flexibility in economic policies, anchored in global comparisons, exposed the folly of enshrining such provisions in constitutional stone.

Chel Diokno, who chairs the Free Legal Assistance Group, delivered a knockout blow by refocusing the debate on the real issues plaguing the country: fairness in the legal system and the specter of political exploitation. His terse reminder that the Constitution should serve the people, not political agendas, reverberated with clarity.

Ariel Inton, representing the Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection, injected a dose of reality into the discourse by highlighting the overlooked repercussions of Charter change on the transport sector. His argument forces proponents of Cha-cha to confront a fundamental question: How will their proposals impact a sector that serves as a lifeline for millions of commuters?

Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna chairman, sounded the alarm about dangers lurking behind the push for Charter change. His impassioned warning about potential backhanded tactics and the erosion of democratic safeguards struck a chord, underscoring the need for vigilant opposition. By raising suspicions of well-organized and well-funded efforts that may subvert democratic processes, Colmenares prompts a sobering reflection on the integrity of the entire endeavor.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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