Leaders OK 5 Summit Principles; Call for a Ceasefire by All Groups to Create Atmosphere for Meaningful Dialogue

Article excerpt

Byline: MARIO B. CASAYURAN

Congress leaders agreed yesterday on five basic principles that will govern the coming summit of political leaders to be presided over by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on a still unspecified day and in a yet unknown place.

One of the principles agreed upon was their appeal "to all groups for a ceasefire in political attacks to create an atmosphere for a meaningful dialogue."

This was announced after a two-hour breakfast meeting at the Manila Hotel by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, and Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo.

Only Sen. John H. Osmena was present to represent the political opposition. The two other opposition members - Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., a former Senate president - were absent because of previous engagements.

The summit, said Drilon, can be held when Congress goes on a three-week recess, starting Sept. 13.

President Arroyo had accepted Drilon's suggestion that the country's leaders hold a summit as the country is suffering from confusion and political mudslinging following the short-lived July 27 Oakwood mutiny in Makati City.

Drilon made the suggestion in place of a call by opposition Sen. Teresa Aquino Oreta for President Arroyo to call for a snap election because the President has allegedly lost her moral ascendancy to rule the country.

The four other principles are:

1. The summit, earlier proposed by Drilon himself and accepted by Malacanang and the House of Representatives, will have as broad a participation as possible, "but we must make it manageable."

2. The summit will work for hope in 2004, meaning an honest, orderly, and peaceful national and local elections onMay 10.

3.- The Senate and the House are committed to constitutional change.

A small group or a subcommittee will be formed to work during the next several days to thresh out the details of the summit that Drilon, De Venecia, and Romulo are pushing for.

"The participants here (during the meeting) are also unanimous that we must make this very clear to all concerned that we have an unqualified support for the Constitution and the duly-constituted authority in the Philippines, a strong message we would like to get across to our people," Drilon said.

Osmena, however, pointed out that the poisoning of the air in the country today did not come solely from the political opposition, but from the administration as well.

During the meeting, Drilon and De Venecia agreed that both chambers will give priority to pending measures calling for amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Drilon has led 13 other senators in passing a resolution stating that the Senate stands for the creation of a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) in amending the Charter with delegates to the convention in an election coinciding with the scheduled May 10,2004 national and local elections.

De Venecia continued to push for a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) mode of amending the Charter. This calls for the formation of Congress into an assembly to amend provisions of the Constitution.

"The (constitutional amendments and electoral reforms) committee of (opposition) Sen. (Edgardo J.) Angara has sponsored on the floor the resolution on the ConCon. We will give it our highest priority in our legislative agenda within the next three weeks. I would call a caucus on this as soon as we can, Monday or Tuesday, to make a go for the resolution of Senator Angara," Drilon said.

Only Angara and administration Sen. Robert Z. Barbers favor the ConAss mode, which De Venecia continues to push.

When asked about the participation of the civil society in the coming summit, Drilon said that "it would be a broad participation but manageable, because we want to achieve what is doable."

"We know that there are a 100 and one concerns in our society, but we cannot all address them and we cannot pretend that the summit will solve all these problems. …