"Expect abuses to become more rampant."
Many are alarmed by the House of Representatives’ hasty actions to shift the country to a federal form of government. Voting 224-22-3 last Dec. 11, solons approved on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15, a mere week after the resolution was approved on second reading.
Senatorial hopeful and former Bayan Muna party-list representative Neri Colmenares commented on Facebook yesterday: “The worst #ChaCha [charter change] ever just passed on 3rd reading at the House of Representatives of the Philippines this afternoon. These are some of the questionable provisions we should all stand against, no matter where we are in the political spectrum.
Colmenares enumerated them in an infographic: “term extension for all incumbent officials, with the first election to be held in May 2020; no term limits for elected officials, from LGU to Senate; no prohibition on political dynasties; allows foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institutions, and media entities; allows foreign ownership of land and natural resources; attacks labor rights and removes right to participate in policy- and decision-making; ‘lawless violence’ is ground for declaration of martial law; allows unlimited martial law powers for the president; deletes section where state guarantees full respect for human rights.
“I’ve said this before and I will say it again: this Charter Change will condemn future generations to poverty. We must stand against it,” wrote Colmenares.
San Beda law school dean Ranhilio Aquino also expressed his concerns. Yesterday he tweeted, “Why were we asked to sit for five months, read and study assiduously, debate and argue spiritedly, write and rewrite to produce a draft crafted by three former Supreme Court justices, one former senate president, law deans, lawyers representing NDF, MILF, MNLF, a lawyer from the military, a Harvard-trained businessman only to have the draft unceremoniously set aside in favor of a hurriedly hammered out grotesque version of a House version for an ersatz federal republic?”
Fr. Aquino was part of a 20-member consultative committee formed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year to draft a new constitution that establishes a federal system of government. In the face of strong public objection, their draft was set aside, critics having objected to this administration’s insistent push for federalism which they pointed out should not be a priority in this time of difficult economic and political challenges.
Many are now even more appalled by the move of the Lower House to ram into place their ill-considered version of the charter.
Should it become law, expect abuses to become more rampant. Term extension will mean the people will not be able to vote out incompetent, thieving, or abusive officials until May 2020. Doing away with term limits means the same people and their family members can retain their hold over their bailiwicks. These two provisions will contribute to the reification of political dynasties, which academic studies and common sense have proven to be more detrimental than beneficial.
Opening politically and culturally sensitive organizations such as the media and schools, as well as land and natural resources, to foreign ownership will mean diminishing or outright relinquishing Filipino control over these important and significant assets.
Most disturbing are the parts of the RBH granting the president unlimited martial law powers; we know what happened the last time a dictator wielded that particular weapon. And if the state does away with protection of human rights, we can expect more killings such as those that are rampant with this administration’s drug war.
But with time running out under the 17th Congress, it is not likely that the RBH will pass in the Senate.
On Oct. 9 this year, Senator Ralph Recto commented in an interview, “Wala na, patay na ‘yung federalism na yan, patay na yung Cha-Cha. Next Congress na pag-usapan yan.” (That federalism, that Cha-Cha, is dead and gone. Take that up in the next Congress).
That same day, Senator Frank Drilon told reporters, “It’s dead on arrival…simply because we have no more time. Even looking at the merits, of which I have very serious reservations personally, I don’t find the proposal logical. I’m sure they realized there is simply no time.”
It seems the controversial RBH will not see the light of the day in the Senate—for now. The people must remain vigilant and pro-active to make sure that any initiatives to change the Constitution will only be done after exhaustive consultation and with their will and consent. Something as important as our country’s charter must not be altered merely to serve self-serving politicians and their selfish, short-sighted personal agendas.
Dr. Ortuoste is against fascism and state-sanctioned murder. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO