What is Cha-Cha and Why Should You Care?

How are changes to the 1987 Constitution introduced, how has the power to do it, and why should we monitor it?

What is Cha-Cha?

Cha-Cha, a.k.a. Charter Change or Constitutional Reform, is the process of making amendments or revisions to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Amendments are changes that do not affect the Constitution’s basic structure, ex. extending the term limit of the President.

Revisions are changes that alter the basic structure of the Constitution, ex. shifting to federalism or changing the system of checks-and-balances.

The Charter Change Process

There are two-steps to make amendments/revisions to the Constitution.

Step 1. Proposal Stage

Changes to the Constitution can be proposed via one of three methods:

Currently, senators "Bato" Dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino are pushing to convene Congress into a Con-Ass and start proposing amendments to the Constitution.

A Constitutional Convention is expensive (Con-Con) as it requires an election of delegates, while getting signatures for 12% of all registered voters is just not practical especially during the pandemic.

That leaves convening into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) to be the quickest and most efficient method. However, it is also the riskiest, since the Con-Ass is made up of all members of Congress, which as we know are dominated by Duterte allies and yes-men.

Step 2. Ratification Stage

Once the proposal is approved, it must then be ratified by a majority of voters in a plebiscite—in simpler terms, all registered Filipino voters must vote to approve or reject the proposed changes.

The schedule of the vote is set by Congress and should be within 60-90 days after the proposal is approved.

In today’s context, Congress is aiming to make a proposal through a Con-Ass by May 2022 so that the plebiscite can be held simultaneously with the presidential elections.

Majority of the voters should approve the proposed changes before it becomes officially valid. The power to change the Constitution is with the Filipino people. Congress can only "propose" these changes.

Why Should We Monitor the Cha-Cha Process?

Firstly, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land—any changes made will affect every Filipino including future generations.

We need to make sure that any amendments or revisions made to the Constitution will benefit us and not only to those who are currently holding power. One likely part of their agenda is extending the term limits of the President or Congress, or completely suspending the upcoming 2022 elections.

Secondly, as one lawmaker said, it is "impractical, insensitive and expensive to do this in the middle of the pandemic and economic crisis."

"There is no urgency for all the economic provisions, given the world is in recession and there’s little trade going on in the world," constitutional law professor Tony La Viña said to Philstar.com. "This is about extending the term of President Duterte and the senators and the congressmen. That’s very clear too. So you have to pay attention to stop it."

Timeline of Charter Change under Duterte's Administration

Under construction!

Sources, Additional Reading

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