"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


With the Supreme Court declaring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) as unconstitutional, Senator Richard J. Gordon stated that “this shows that the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is paramount to the exercise of the powers of the Executive in protecting her Administration.”

“The Constitution cannot be trifled with. The President must be more circumspect in the exercise of her Executive powers. She should not experiment with the people’s rights which are inherent in the Constitution,” said Gordon.

“The CPR has undeniably disrupted our democratic way of life in our country, and in effect, adversely affected tourism, business, and investments,” added Gordon.

Gordon who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws observed that the series of acts of the President, including Executive Order No. 464, Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, and the aggressive moves towards Charter Change, have all “weakened our constitution and our democracy to the detriment of our country.”

“We need to break this destructive pattern in order to move forward. We need to respect our Constitution and strengthen our democracy by first and foremost guaranteeing the constitutional rights of our people,” said Gordon.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Concentrate on Prison Reforms

“A blanket commutation of the death penalty without a repeal of the death penalty law by Congress thwarts legislative policy and is an affront to justice, law, and order,” said Senator Richard J. Gordon. “It disturbs the balance of powers and unduly weakens coequal branches, while inordinately strengthening the Executive,” he added.

“It also affects the legitimate exercise of the Judiciary to deliver justice according to law and constitutes an intrusion on the separation of powers,” stated Gordon. He said that commutation of the death penalty should be done on an individual basis based on a specific rationale with fully justifiable grounds for each particular case.

“Before the President can be merciful, she must be just,” added Gordon.

“Rather than question the wisdom of the death penalty, the President must implement the law, give due respect to Congress and the Supreme Court, and focus on harmoniously promoting justice, law, and order,” said Gordon.

Gordon also called the President to concentrate on prison reforms. “We must focus on legislative measures that call for stricter accountability and promote better productivity.” He cited his Senate Bill No. 1953 or the proposed act to rehabilitate and reform prisoners through prison work and allow the productive engagement of qualified prisoners in reforestation, infrastructure and government projects.

The salient provisions of Gordon’s bill include voluntary prison work, compulsory prison work, secure work program for work outside the prison proper in reforestation, infrastructure, and government projects, the establishment of reforestation camps, and compensation and time allowance for prison work.

“A person who is committed to prison must lead a productive life and not be a burden to the State while in the process of rehabilitation and reformation into a law-abiding and responsible citizen. Prison work, which is the rehabilitation of a prisoner through work, aims to promote discipline and enhance the prisoner’s self-respect, self-confidence, personal dignity and sense of responsibility by allowing the prisoner to pay for his or her own keep while serving time in prison,” explained Gordon.

“With prison work, taxpayers will not be unduly obligated to pay for the maintenance of prisoners. While less public funds will be required to spend for prisoners, more resources will be made available for other productive uses of the government,” according to Gordon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poll upgrade before Cha-cha

Reforms in the electoral system should be implemented first before pursuing efforts to amend the Constitution, Sen. Richard Gordon said yesterday.

Gordon, as chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, emphasized that reforms such as revamping the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the electoral system are "a condition sine qua non to Charter change (Cha-cha)."

With the national and local elections scheduled for next year, Gordon said Congress and Malacañang should jointly focus on pushing for an automated electoral system.

"Charter change should be considered only after the 2007 national and local elections. The impending 2007 elections should be the primary focus of our country today," Gordon said.

He stressed the importance of providing an automated electoral system to ensure clean, honest and credible elections. Gordon negated the possibility of holding a plebiscite unless Comelec is reformed and an automatic voting mechanism is implemented.

"How can we have a reliable and trustworthy plebiscite when the integrity and credibility of the Comelec is still in question?" he asked.

Gordon has sponsored a bill in the Senate calling for the establishment of an automated electoral system, which would be partially implemented during the 2007 elections.

The bill is currently being tackled during the period of individual amendments and review by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Gordon vowed to complete the amendments and put the bill to a vote on third and final reading when Congress reconvenes on May 15.

"This uses the best technology available for elections and limits the amount of human handling of the ballots and thus assures the secrecy and sanctity of the ballots in order that the results of elections shall be fast, accurate and reflective of the genuine will of the people," he said.

Gordon noted the feverish attempts by Cha-cha advocates to pursue parliamentary elections by next year.

He said there are several parties "running amok with the Cha-cha train, blatantly and illegally, both in the House and through a signature campaign.

But even assuming that all is valid, it will still come down to a vote by the people whether they want the new constitution or not.

The Philippine Star

Sunday, April 16, 2006

People's Initiative is a grand deception

Sen. Richard Gordon said there is a need to educate the public on the moves to change the Constitution.

Gordon said the provision in the initiative proposal for a shift from a bicameral congress to a unicameral parliament "is too vague to be understood by the people" so there is a need to intensify the information drive for Charter change.

"When the parliamentary system is in place, they would no longer have the right to directly vote for the most important official of the land, namely, the prime minister who will be in charge of government," Gordon said in a statement.

With the ways things are going between the executive and the legislative branches of government, the Senate feels it will be abolished once a unicameral parliament is created.

In a parliamentary system, Gordon said, the President is only a ceremonial official, fit for cutting ribbons and reading speeches prepared by the prime minister. The real executive will be the PM who will be elected by the members of the unicameral congress, the senator added.

For the government’s failure to educate the public on the issue, Gordon branded as a "grand deception" the administration-sponsored move because it "concealed many things from the people," including the need for the proposed constitutional amendments to be put through a plebiscite.

"This is all part of a grand deception. There are several issues that the proponents of Charter change via people’s initiative are concealing from the people," said Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.

Gordon also asked where the budget for such activities will be taken from once the people’s initiative succeeds and a plebiscite is held: "Where will the money come from? How much money is being appropriated for the plebiscite? Will there be enough time for the proponents and the opponents of the proposal to discuss the issue to the public so that they will understand and would be able to vote intelligently on the proposal? Or will the measure be just rammed down the throat of a bewildered Filipino people?"

He said the proponents of charter change need to convince the people that there is an urgent need to amend the Constitution and what amendments to introduce.

"First, is the public aware that in a parliamentary system, the people will lose their right to directly vote for their leader? That is what will happen if we revise Article 6 and 7 of the Constitution and shift to a parliamentary system, and I doubt if the people were enlightened on this point," Gordon said.

He added that amending Articles 6 and 7 of the Charter constitutes a revision — not a mere amendment of the constitution — which is clearly outside the parameters of a people’s initiative.

"The very process for revising the constitution — as put forward by proponents of a people’s initiative — is not just flawed but unconstitutional," Gordon said. He added that even the use of barangay assemblies as a venue for the people’s initiative signature campaign is not valid.

"Under our Local Government Code, the barangay assembly is limited to deciding "on the adoption of initiative as a legal process whereby the registered voters of the barangay may directly propose, enact or amend any ordinance." A people’s initiative with respect to constitutional amendments is not covered, he said.

Gordon added that any constitutional amendments must first be submitted to the people in a plebiscite, which will be under Comelec watch, "but if the Comelec is distrusted by the people because of its perceived failure to prevent massive electoral fraud in the past, how can we have a reliable plebiscite?"

"The integrity and credibility of the Comelec and its ability to give us clean, honest and fair elections must be addressed before we can even begin talking about Charter change," he said.

By Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star 04/13/2006
With Christina Mendez