Many Davao Folk Clueless About Cha-Cha

Apr. 16, 2006

Some mistook it for the dance, many hadnt heard about it, others were convinced it wont change things, while several felt some interests are manipulating the public into accepting it.

By Cheryll D. Fiel

and Germelina A. Lacorte

DAVAO CITY ( The surveys were emphatic: most Filipinos are not in favor of Charter change. Although the results vary depending on who does the survey, the sentiment nonetheless was clear.

A Pulse Asia survey in March said that 48 percent of voters approved of Charter Change while 43 percent didnt. A more recent survey this month by the same pollster indicated that 54 percent of Filipinos didnt want a shift to a parliamentary system, which is the key amendment being pushed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her critics have warned that shes using Charter change to perpetuate herself in power by averting another round of impeachment proceedings this year.

Results of a nationwide poll released last week by Ibon Foundation indicated that 76 percent of the respondents who know about Charter change did not approve of it. But given the unpopularity of the Arroyo administration, which is hounded by charges of election fraud and corruption, that is hardly surprising.

In Ibons latest survey, 30 percent of its 1,416 respondents said they were not aware of the Arroyo regimes push for Charter change. (Only 68 percent said they were aware, and of this number, 76 percent said they were opposed to constitutional amendments, 16 percent approved, six percent had no opinion of it, while two percent did not answer.)

But what is perhaps more interesting than not being aware of Charter change is not knowing what it is about. This lack of understanding was a common thread in several random interviews conducted by last week.

“I don’t understand anything about it because I don’t know which provision they want to change, said Mario Toledo, 37, a security guard at the Marco Polo hotel. All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”

Glenn Buenacosa, a 16-year-old student of Ateneo de Davao High School, said I still don’t understand much about Cha-cha but from what I heard, it’s something good for the country because they’re going to change the Constitution.”

Isning Genaro, who makes a living out of delivering softdrinks to sari-sari stores, asked if we were referring to the dance. When told about Charter Change, he refused to answer the question because he did not know anything about it.

“Where?” replied Danilo Mabayao, a 32-year-old tricyle driver, who thought we were asking him about the dance. Samuel Anaid, a fellow tricycle driver, said he was clueless about it, so was Jerry Koming, a resident of S.I.R. in Matina who collects scrap iron and plastics for a living.

Aside from ignorance, a sense that Charter change will be for naught or that it is being used for some selfish interest was also evident in the many responses we gathered.

If they’re going to change the Constitution, will it bring something good? If not, can we change it again? asked Nida Trinidad, 39, a wife of a locksmith. If it’s something that will benefit the people, why is the government rushing it without even explaining it to us?, she said, adding: It’s difficult to trust the government now, when they’re even preventing government officials from testifying in Congress.

Nilda Ebate, a Grade 5 teacher at the Kapitan Tomas Monteverde Central Elementary School, had a mouthful to say about the issue. “First and foremost, she said, the people don’t understand yet what the issue is all about. I still have so many questions that are left unanswered. One big question is why is the government rushing to change the Constitution without properly explaining to the people? There must be something behind it. Will it make life easier for us? The government still has a lot of explaining to do.

Alex Robillo, a store owner at Juna Subdivision in Matina, said the government should not rush Charter change unless the people really understood it.

The Arroyo administration was criticized recently for allegedly manipulating barangay (village) officials into holding general assemblies that turned out to be a signature-gathering campaign for Charter change. There were allegations that the government paid off officials, who in turn bribed residents with cash and rice into signing documents that the government would use as a petition to change the constitution.

While there were some optimistic respondents in the interviews — “Cha-cha is OK. It will lessen graft and corruption, said Gin Villareca, housewife and sari-sari store owner in Matina some, like Renante Garte, 26, a driver from Matina, were resigned to the view that Philippine politics wont change.

Even if we go for Charter change, there will still be no changes in governance, he told I will still be stuck with driving tricycles for a living. The government will still be corrupt. (Cheryll D. Fiel and Germelina A. Lacorte, with a report from Gilbert Pacificar/

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