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Philippine court denies vote on political change

Written by: Staff

MANILA, Oct 25 (Reuters) The Philippines' Supreme Court ruled today against holding a referendum on shifting the country to a parliamentary form of government in a major blow for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The 15 justices voted eight to seven to strike down a petition for a plebiscite, blasting the non-government organisation behind it for supporting Arroyo's agenda.

The court also criticised the petitioner Sigaw ng Bayan (Call of the People) for failing to show that the 6.3 million signatories to the petition knew what they were signing.

''To allow this constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures, to alter basic principles in the constitution is to allow a desecration of the constitution,'' the eight judges wrote.

Analysts said the ruling was likely to reduce the political temperature in the Philippines, where constitutional change would have polarised the nation.

Arroyo has championed the switch to a parliamentary setup and her Executive Secretary said it was now up to congressional allies to convene both houses of the legislature into a constituent assembly to try and re-write the constitution.

''The president has not lost her resolve for a major political change, such as the charter change,'' Eduardo Ermita said.

But analysts said a constituent assembly was unlikely to succeed because senators, who face extinction if a parliamentary system is created, are fiercely opposed to an amendment. Lawmakers are also starting to focus on elections next year.

The Supreme court, which has demonstrated its independence in several decisions this year, also said the public can only apply for amendments to the constitution, not revisions.


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