MANILA: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo cautioned legislators yesterday that moves to change the constitution would split the nation, suggesting that they be made in the “least divisive” manner possible.
“Considering the divisiveness in our country, this issue is bringing about even more divisiveness,” Arroyo said in an interview with a group of foreign journalists.
The presidential palace released excerpts of the interview to the public.
However, should there be a consensus on the need for “fundamental changes in the political system,” then a “constitutional convention” should be held, she said.
Delegates to the convention could be elected at the same time as the new Philippines president on May 10, 2004, said Arroyo, who announced last month she was not running for another term.
Foreign diplomats say the charter, last amended in 1987, contains many protectionist provisions that bar the entry of foreign capital that would help the 32 million poor Filipinos.
However, Congress itself is divided on the issue, with the House of Representatives pushing for charter changes and the Senate opposing it.
The constitution provides for amendments through a constitutional convention or by Congress itself with the approval of at least 75% of its members.
A two-thirds majority in Congress may call a constitutional convention, or alternatively a congressional majority can put the issue of calling a constitutional convention to a popular vote in a nationwide plebiscite.
Critics say allowing the incumbent legislators themselves to change the constitution would have them working for their own personal interests. – AFP
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