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Manila Standard - It’s not the time for Cha-Cha

News & Interviews
26 January 2021

By Emil Jurado | Manila Standard

"Better to tackle it after the 2022 elections."

I must admit that while I was all for revisiting the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution as a means of providing stimulus to foreign investments and fueling our economic recovery, I have changed my mind. After analyzing the pros and cons of the issue, I now believe Cha-Cha would be better done after the 2022 national and local elections.

Charter change at this time, when there is an urgent need for our divided country to unite, could derail all efforts of the government to unite the country and put the COVID-19 pandemic to an end.

Santa Banana, this early there are so issues being brought up about charter change. One of them is: Would the two Houses of Congress vote jointly or separately under a Constituent Assembly? And then, my gulay, whatever would be decided will surely be challenged in the Supreme Court. Even now with 17 months to go for the 2022 polls, while the House of Representatives is all for joint assembly, the Senate would not go for it since they are only 24 senators while the House has 304 members. And this issue could even go to the Supreme Court.

The greatest fear of those advocating Charter Change is that despite the plan of House leaders to restrict the changes to the economic provisions only, nobody can stop any member from calling changes in the political provisions in the charter. Among these is extending the terms of members of the House.

This is why I now believe we should only revisit the Constitution after the 2022 polls. That way, whoever gets elected can truly focus on the economic provisions.

As suggested by 10 business organizations that are against amending the Charter at this time, Congress could spend their time passing crucial and urgent bills aimed at economic recovery like amendments of the Public Service Act, which has been approved by the House and is pending at the Senate committee on public services. When approved, the proposed measure would lift restrictions on foreign equity ownership, telecommunications and transportation sectors.

* * *

What we need most at this point is a clear roadmap for the forthcoming rollout of whatever vaccines could be available. Let us consider the fact that the United Kingdom’s new variant of the coronavirus is already in the Philippines.

More importantly, there is a need for President Duterte to assure people that what would be made available for them would be safe and effective. I have asked some friends if they wanted to get inoculated with the Chinese Sinovac and they tell me, they would rather have the vaccine from either Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Call it colonial mentality or whatever. But our authorities should not blame most Filipinos for preferring Pfizer and AstraZeneca. As health experts say, the test of a good vaccine is always safety and efficacy. With Sinovac at only 50-percent efficacy, can you blame Filipinos from looking down on the Chinese vaccine?

It is for this reason why the government needs a massive education and information program on the vaccine rollout which will start in February.

* * *

My gulay, another problem which vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. must explain to us all concerns reports that not all Filipinos may get the vaccines once they are available. The IATF or the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to make the vaccines available for the sick and elderly—the category to which my wife and I belong. I am not a health expert, but I believe the sick and the elderlies need more of the vaccine than most people.

Lastly, how will the people get vaccinated since there has been no report how the rollout will be done? Will it be done on a house-to-house basis? Will there be vaccination centers where people can go? It is not even clear when the free vaccines will be available.

At least in the private sector, employers will provide their employees with the vaccine; these employees know when and where they will be vaccinated.

What bothers me is the fact that Galvez admitted he had lied to the Senate twice, while still insisting that there was no corruption in connection with the prices of the vaccine from Sinovac. What Galvez meant was that there was no corruption as to prices of the vaccine, and no compromise on the ongoing dispute between China and the Philippines in the West Philippines. How does he know all these?

The bottomline is that the vaccine rollout program remains as clear as mud. With Galvez at the helm, it’s a big mess!

* * *

The dismissal of the petitions of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Solicitor General Jose Calida for the inhibition of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen as ponente of the election protest of Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo at the Supreme Court is doomed.

Inhibition by a magistrate is a matter of “delicadeza” and self-respect. It’s either he or she has it or not, my gulay!

Leonen has been known to be very critical of the Marcoses when the case of the burial of President Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was taken up before the Supreme Court. Leonen dissented from the majority decision allowing the burial.

Leonen was an appointee of former President Noynoy Aquino.

As ponente of the election protest of Bongbong Marcos against Robredo, Leonen did not hide his bias and prejudice against Marcos when he came out with a ruling that he supposedly distributed to the members of the court. The ruling dismissed and pre-judged the election protest of Marcos. It was precisely for this reason that Marcos and the Solicitor General asked for Leonen’s inhibition.

The Supreme Court is the final judge of the case of Marcos vs. Robredo, which was supposed to be finalized this coming October with the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 elections.

Marcos had wanted the Supreme Court, acting as the judge, to nullify votes in Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao because of overvoting. This supposedly resulted in Robredo’s narrow margin against him.

But, with the dismissal of the petitions of Marcos and Calida, it becomes very clear how the election protest of Marcos would end.