01/17/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Almost one Filipino in three in favour of constitutional reform but Catholic Church calls first for

by Santosh Digal
According to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the priority should be the honesty amongst political elites. Reform would turn the existing presidential system into a parliamentary one.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Almost a third of all Filipinos are in favour of changing the constitution from a presidential to a parliamentary system. The Catholic Church however warns against changes unless political elites change their ways.

A survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS) indicates that more and more Filipinos are in favour of a parliamentary form of government. The nationwide survey of 1,200 respondents shows that 32 per cent of Filipinos are in favour of having the head of government approved by parliament compared to 32 per cent who are against. Another 30 per cent remains undecided.
In light of this, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has called on Filipinos to reflect upon the issue. In its opinion, the true priority is changing the behaviour of political elites.

"Character change must precede charter change," reads a statement the PPCRV released on January 11. Reforming the constitution now "would be like wearing fresh clothes without even taking a bath," a PPCRV spokesperson said. "In other words, it would be like pouring new wine into old wineskins."

"We must explain what the changes mean. If a referendum is help Filipino voters must not vote unprepared," the statement said. "We shall organise education and information campaigns," it said.

The motives of those pushing for constitutional changes are also come under scrutiny. For the council "[t]o doubt the sincerity of these proposed changes may not be unsubstantiated, knowing that those who would potentially execute it would benefit from these revisions".

PPCRV chairman Antonio Ventos also insisted that proposed constitutional reforms raise further doubts about lawmakers' honesty. He urged people to judge themselves political institutions and elites. In his view, a referendum is necessary to know what Filipinos think.

Set up by the late Card Jaime Sin, the PPCRV's main task is to monitor elections as it did during the 2004 presidential elections that saw the election of current President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

That year it had 71,183 poll watchers and 45 supervisors representing 638 parishes nationwide.

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