The manifesto, a seven-paragraph statement, which specified their "support to the efforts of the Congress to convene a constituent assembly,” was handed over to the President on the 17th floor of Marco Polo hotel, before President Arroyo showed up for eight minutes at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Bishops-Ulama Conference 15 floors below.
"In the light of the junking by the Supreme Court of the 'people's initiative,' we now lend and manifest our support to the efforts of the Congress of the Philippines to achieve these reforms through the convening of the constituent assembly," the statement said.
They urged the lawmakers not to be misled by "self-serving" surveys that they alleged to be engineered by interest groups against charter change.
They denounced efforts of "well-funded" interest groups who, they alleged, have “twisted facts” about the reason behind the proposed constitutional reforms. The leaders stood against those who make it appear the reforms are intended to benefit the President.
The group lauded the President for her "strong political will" in achieving economic and political reforms and her open and all-out support for charter change.
Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said the meeting lasted for at least 25 minutes.
Mayors and governors such as Zubiri, Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz, and Malaybalay City Mayor Florencio Flores Jr. told MindaNews an hour before the meeting that they were "blind" as to the real reason of the meeting.
Cotabato Gov. Manuel Piñol, who Zubiri said handed the manifesto to the President, joked to reporters at the hotel lobby: “Wa ko kabalo, nasaag lang ko diri" (I don't know, I just accidentally entered here).”
Pinol is the former head of the Confederation of Mindanao Governors, City Mayors and Municipal Mayors’ League presidents. The Confederation is now headed by South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes
Zubiri said during the meeting Arroyo thanked them for their support and spent time to listen to their requests for projects. But he said he was a bit disappointed about what turned out in the meeting.
On Nov. 28, the Supreme Court junked with finality the move to amend the Constitution through peoples' initiative.
But there is now a motion in now in full-swing to convene both houses of Congress into a constituent assembly.
Senators and congressmen, House Speaker Jose de Venecia told Manila-based reporters Thursday, will be convened into a constituent assembly before Congress takes the Christmas break. He said they will tackle proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution now that the Supreme Court junked the motion for reconsideration filed by charter change advocates.
The officials said in the manifesto that they realized the need to push the country forward to "an era of progress and development" so they are supporting the efforts to amend the Constitution.
The officials admitted in the statement that they facilitated the gathering of the required number of signatures of "our constituents in an exercise called people's initiative".
The meeting came in the wake of a move to defer the May 2007 mid-term elections to give way for the election of an interim parliament in November 2007.
Malacañang welcomed the recommendation filed by the six-member technical working group created by administration legislators at the House of Representatives on going about constitutional reforms.
Cruz and Dominguez, in separate interviews, said it does not matter for them if elections are held anytime. Cruz said extending their term could be advantageous for the continuity of programs but he is ready if elections are held in May.
Dominguez said he is not afraid when elections would be held because he is working anyway.
Zubiri said the issue to defer the elections is only secondary to the issue of how the Constitution would be changed.
Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano, on the other hand, said he would back the move "but they have to make sure it will really happen".
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who said he also signed the manifesto in support of Arroyo's efforts for charter change, told reporters he is against the deferment of the elections.
Aside from Zubiri, Dominguez, and Piñol, the other governors who signed the manifesto are Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte), Loreto Leo Ocampos (Misamis Occidental), Aurora E. Cerilles (Zamboanga del Sur), Pax Mangudadatu (Sultan Kudarat), Sadikul Sahali (Tawi-tawi), Jose Caballero (Compostela Valley), Ma. Elena T. Palma-Gil (Davao Oriental), and Vicente Pimentel (Surigao del Sur).
Other city mayors who signed include Muslimin Sema (Cotabato City), Alberto Tan (Bislig), Rey Gavina (Panabo), Pedro Acharon (General Santos City), Jose Galario (Valencia City), Arsenio Latasa (Digos), Jorge Almonte (Oroquieta), Omar Ali (Marawi), Sammy Co (Pagadian), and Fernando Miguel (Koronadal). (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)