Thursday, October 24, 2013

Juan “Barber” de la Cruz, MPP (Member, People’s Parliament)

My barber was curious when I told him that he could be a Congressman without winning an election and without spending a single centavo. He can, in fact, bestow himself the title, MPP or “Member, People’s Parliament” – like the MPs (Members of the British Parliament). In fact, I said that he could also be a Provincial Board Member, City or Municipal Councilor or Barangay Kagawad at the same time without much effort.  

How? By the simple act of affixing your SIGNATURE!

As provided by the Constitution and statute, the Filipino people, through a system of initiative and referendum, “can directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof passed by Congress or local legislative body.”

This is “after the registration of a petition therefor signed by at least ten per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered voters thereof.”

Why? The Philippines is a democratic and republican state.  As a democratic state, sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.  It also follows a republican system of government whereby the people may delegate powers to the State. The governmental agencies and institutions are expected to operate within the limits of the authority conferred by the people.

While legislative powers were delegated to Congress, such powers were reserved for the people when deemed necessary and beneficial.  These reserved powers are exercised through the system of initiative and referendum.

Filipino registered voters in the Philippines, in the United States, and other countries are qualified to be signatories to any petition that proposes and enacts laws.  As part of the 10 per centum required, every signatory is actually a lawmaker with real powers.

Most recently, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno proposed that People’s Initiative be used to enact a law that would abolish Pork Barrel once and for all.

Earlier, COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes III also proposed that People’s Initiative be used to pass the enabling law on Anti-Political Dynasty.

In both cases, it is rightly claimed that the current occupants in Congress will never pass any law that will actually have the effect of prohibiting political dynasties and abolish pork barrel. The opportunity was there for more than 25 years.  It is against their self-interest.

This is the opportune time to use this reserved people power without the need to go to the streets.  In fact, it might as well be the right time to institutionalize it as an alternative to Congress.  All signatories to the petition starting with the anti-dynasty and pork barrel laws are automatically qualified to be members of what we may call Philippine People’s Parliament.  That’s about 4500 signatures in every Congressional district, and about 5.5 million signatures nationally or internationally if acquired before the next elections.

The same signatories who are members of the Philippine People’s Parliament can also propose and enact local laws (Provincial Board Resolutions, City or Municipal Ordinances, Barangay Resolutions) in their respective localities where they are registered.  In fact, they can also recall undesirable local officials.

Furthermore, I told my barber that the parliament could also propose amendments to the Philippine Constitution.  The petition must be signed also by three per cent of the registered voters in each Congressional district but this time a total of twelve per cent instead of the required ten per cent in case of laws.  We just have to work harder.

Legislative Work

A read on the Constitution would show that there are 130 provisions.  According to Manolo Gorospe of the Philippine Constitution Association, 82 of them need enabling laws.  In short, Congress for all the billions of pesos spent on them during the last 25 years has failed to pass the necessary laws that would have benefited the Filipino people.

The Philippine People’s Parliament – the institutionalized People Power and alternative to Congress will propose and enact the enabling laws mandated by the Constitution and others deemed necessary.

Regional Groups Abroad

In the United States, I proposed earlier that regional or hometown associations are tapped to recruit signatories or members of the Philippine People’s Parliament.  These groups are very active and productive.  Their concerns are mostly their places of birth.  If they become dual citizens and register as Filipino voters, they qualify under the law not just to vote for national officials but also to sign petitions on initiative and referenda.  They can also influence their relatives and friends in the Philippines to join the cause.

Personal Experience

My interest on this issue dates back many years.  About a year or two before the end of President Fidel Ramos’ term (1996), I had the honor and pleasure of making a presentation on the matter in a meeting with three of the President’s closest advisers namely:  Salvador Enriquez, Jr., then Budget Secretary and later Finance Secretary; General Jose Almonte, then National Security Adviser; and Raul Manglapus, then President of the ruling Lakas-NUCD Party and former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary.

The meeting was held at the office of General Almonte and was a very interesting discussion.  I explained my ideas re building the network of signatories to strengthen the party for the future.  All liked it.  General Almonte arranged for me to meet with then Presidential Legal Counsel (now SC Justice) Antonio Carpio in Malacañang Palace who was all for it.  Secretary Enriquez arranged for me to meet and run a series of seminars at Club Filipino for some youth leaders and selected members of the National Youth Parliament.   

At the time, I was more interested in institutionalizing People Power through the People’s Initiative.  Others were as interested in proposing constitutional amendments so that the industrialization program of President Ramos would continue.

I also met the founding leaders of the original PIRMA, former Ambassador Alberto Pedrosa and his wife, famous writer Carmen Pedrosa.  They both exemplify and embody the commitment to the use of People’s Initiative in instituting Constitutional reforms.  Their experience would be invaluable to those led by former Chief Justice Puno in their campaign to abolish pork and possibly amend the Constitution.

Sir John de la Cruz, MPP (Member, People’s Parliament)!  Or Mang Juan de la Cruz, Mambabatas! Nice ring to it!

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