THE credibility and trustworthiness of advocates for or against Charter change will matter in the Filipino people’s decision should there be a plebiscite on the governments proposal to change the Constitution, a political analyst from Pulse Asia said Tuesday.
In a forum conducted by Pulse Asia at the Ateneo School of Government at Rockwell in Makati, Mario M. Taguiwalo, political consultant for the private poll agency said that given the complexity of the issues related to Charter change and the limited time for debates, people will likely vote based on what he calls “rationality under constraints.”
“People’s opinions are going to be influenced by advocates or champions whom they trust,” he said, stressing that the political motive of those who are pushing Charter change will be a major consideration. “Who stands and speaks on Cha-cha could matter to people seeking whom to believe.”
Charter change, Taguiwalo said, is very complex issue, made more difficult by the fact that it’s the first time the country is going to have a “people’s initiative.” This, coupled with people’s unfamiliarity with the parliamentary system, unclear connections between Charter change and people’s concerns, make an informed judgment even harder.
Taguiwalo noted that changes in the political process are usually being pushed by people outside the circle of power. But the current efforts to change the Constitution are spearheaded by the Arroyo government itself. “The key issue to the debate is ‘Why do those in power want this?” he said.
Citing the March 2006 results of the Pulse Asia survey, Taguiwalo said 68 percent of Filipinos have “little or no knowledge” of the Philippine Constitution, a figure that was practically unchanged since last year. However, he noted that there has been an “increase[ing] willingness to consider Charter change,” rising to 43 percent in March 2006 from 29 percent in March and 36 percent in October last year.
The survey, he explained, was conducted prior to the launching of a well-funded campaign by the Arroyo government for Charter change sometime in mid-March. On March 30, President Arroyo issued a statement saying the Cha-cha train “has already left the station” and those opposing it should stand aside or risk being run over.
Those who are against Charter change, the survey said, are from rural Visayas and rural
“The debate has just begun,” Taguiwalo said stressing that the Pulse Asia survey results are useful only as “baseline information,” as people’s opinions are likely to change as more information goes into the debates.
Taguiwalo said that prior to the launching of the government’s Cha-cha train, the increasing willingness to consider Chacha is “weighed largely” by anti-Arroyo sentiment. “The pro-Arroyo camp is not necessarily pro-Chacha.”
To point out the possibilities, he raised rhetorical questions: “Will Charter change opinion turn negative with a PGMA-endorsed Charter change?” “Or will anti-PGMA opinion turn positive with her endorsement of Charter change?”
Taguiwalo concluded that the people might yet go for Charter if the proposed changes could offer “credible hopes.” The major hurdle for this scenario, however, is the endorsement by the Arroyo government. On the other hand, he stressed that the people might yet reject Cha-cha if it raises real fears that the proposed change could make the country worse off.