Commentary: The final push
By Bong Pedalino
Tacloban City (24 November) -- Right after the Supreme Court ruled with finality that the Sigaw-backed people's initiative (PI) was gone for good, the political stage appeared primed for a final showdown of the cha-cha kind.
So, with the much-maligned PI out of the way, comes now the full speed throttle of Plan B - the Constituent Assembly or Con-Ass.
But the tribunal's ruling was accompanied with a rider: Republic Act 6735, the Initiatives and Referendum Act authored by the late Sen. Raul Roco, was sufficient as an enabling law, reversing a 1997 decision on the same issue.
The joy and satisfaction of Sigaw's Atty. Raul Lambino over the latest High Court ruling was clearly evident on TV, even as he professed that he would give Congress enough time for them to give flesh to the Con-Ass.
Make no mistake about it: if the Con-Ass express would be derailed -- which in all likelihood it will -- Atty. Lambino's PI will be up again, a whole lot better by that time, and with added legal back-up to depend on.
Still, the issue on revision or amendment must have to be settled, for in the eyes of the highest court of the land, the shift from a bicameral-presidential to a unicameral-parliamentary was a major revision, not a small change, and as such the implication was that it cannot be covered by RA 6735.
House Speaker Jose De Venecia, however, saw no need for a repeat of Lambino's paperworks. With more than 200 lawmakers in his arsenal, including some in the opposition and some Senators as he was quoted as claiming, the Con-Ass process will be completed before Christmas 2006; with that done, the Comelec is expected to call for a plebiscite on the proposed constitutional reforms by January, 2007.
That's the ultimate final push, without counting the elevation of the issue again to the Supreme Court, which can delay the time-table once again.
We wish JDV all the best luck there is in the world for this endeavor.
But another version of the final push may be worth looking at for all practical intents and purposes.
This version is quite simple but admittedly a little bit complicated: Brace for a tough mid-term elections on May 14, 2007 to insure that the Lower House would remain administration-friendly, and the Senate to cease to become administration-hostile.
To be lax and complacent is to court a Bush experience.
LOCAL FRONT: The political pot in the local scene has started to emit smoke, an indication that it has started boiling. Local weekly newspapers had a field day, or so it seemed, on this upcoming political climate. Already, the Southern Leyte Balita had bannered that Engr. Robert Castanares is on the running again for Congressman, and Victor Lerias, husband of incumbent Governor Rosette, will stake the gubernatorial post since Mrs. Lerias is already a third-termer. So far this has been the items made public. Rumors have it that City Mayor Mian Mercado, also a third-termer, will run for Governor, but this has not yet been confirmed. The foremost question begs for answer: will the NPC (Lerias) and Lakas (Mercado) local alliance still works? It's worth watching!
ODDLY YOURS: Perhaps one of the things Metro Manilans would be forever grateful to the late Pope John Paul II was the Holy Father's unilateral act of elevating the Manila Cathedral into a basilica. It was a departure from common practice. By tradition, a local prelate files a petition for such an elevation. The petition would have to be approved by the Episcopal conference of the country, then on to the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican and, finally, the Pope. Yet when Pope John Paul II celebrated his First Mass in the Philippines at the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral (or simply Manila Cathedral), he was so impressed that he told the late Jaime Cardinal Sin that he wanted the church to become a basilica. About three months later, in April, 1981, he issued a papal bull which officially gave the title "Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception" to the Manila Cathedral, the only church in the Philippines to have been elevated directly through the Pope. (PIA) [top]