Broad coalition vs Cha-cha launched

Various people’s organizations and religious groups launched Wednesday, February 14, a coalition against a renewed push for Charter change (Cha-cha) which they said will not solve the country’s problems, contrary to its proponents.

Koalisyon Laban sa Cha-cha — convened by Bishop Jose Colin M. Bagaforo of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Bishop Jonel Milan of the K4Philippines Intercessors Movement, Ms. Minnie Anne Mata-Calub of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, of Tindig Pilipinas, Josua Mata of Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, and Justine Balane of Akbayan Youth. — denounced the fresh moves to revise the 1987 Constitution as “selfish.”

In Iloilo City, a similar broad coalition will be launched on February 2o and it will hold a mass at the cathedral then a march to the capitol on February 25.

“Our Constitution is robust but not fully implemented and completed with the necessary implementing laws. The leaders we entrusted with power do not fully implement the Constitution and provide necessary implementing laws because of a selfish agenda,” the coalition said.

It also refuted claims of lawmakers campaigning for Cha-cha that the Constitution is to blame for chronic poverty and that its economic provisions are too restrictive for foreign investments.

The group vowed to uphold the Constitution, particularly its social justice provisions, and to protect the sanctity of processes to amend or revise the Charter so that these will not be used to exploit people.

As it traced the opposition to previous Cha-cha attempts, the coalition said there is no reason to change the Constitution now, especially under a president “in denial of the corruption and human rights abuses of his father’s dictatorial regime.”

‘True unity’

Bishop Bagaforo, who chairs the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace and heads Caritas Philippines, called the current push for Cha-cha “questionable.”

“We view attempts to alter the Constitution, especially with questionable motives and limited public participation, as threatening our nation’s well-being,” Bagaforo said.

He continued, “The 1987 Constitution is not a political plaything. It was crafted after a dark period to serve the Filipino people, upholding human dignity, human rights, and the common good. We echo the CBCP’s stance: Any revision must adhere to these moral principles.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), an ecumenical fellowship of non-Roman Catholic denominations in the country, also rejected the current push for Cha-cha, saying it will not help people.

“It will open up the economy to further foreign exploitation and foreign military basing. The former will further mire the people in poverty while the latter will compromise Philippine sovereignty,” Jennifer Ferariza-Meneses, NCCP’s vice-chairperson for women, said.

Hontiveros hailed the “true unity” of people’s organizations and religious groups joining forces against Cha-cha despite having come from different walks of life.

“Ito ang tunay na pagkakaisa: Ang pagkakaisa ng taumbayan na lalaban para sa kapakanan ng nakararami, hindi para lang sa interes ng iilan,” she said.

The senator urged people to join the coalition and other groups against Cha-cha as she underscored the need to further strengthen the campaign against this attempt to tamper with the Constitution.

“Pagod na tayo sa pagtangis dahil sa mga nasaktang puso at napakong pangako,” Hontiveros said. “Kaya pupunasan na natin ang ating luha at buong-loob na papasanin ang krus ng laban kontra sa Cha-cha para ang ating bayan ay maging tunay na bayang magiliw.”

Focus on true needs of Pinoys

Fr. Antonio Labiao, Caritas’ executive secretary, said that instead of tinkering with the Constitution, the government should instead work to eradicate corruption, protect the environment, break political dynasties, and ensure electoral integrity.

“A just and equitable society for all Filipinos cannot be achieved through self-serving Charter changes, but through a genuine commitment to the people’s welfare. We urge the government to fulfill its duty and prioritize the needs of its citizens,” Labiao said.

Josua Mata of Nagkaisa Labor Coalition and Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa said what the people truly need are living wages, jobs and rights.

“Kung wala dito ang puso ninyo, malamang kapangyarihan at kayamanan lang ang habol ninyo!” Mata said. “We urge our legislators to prioritize policies that would address the chronic poverty amidst the widening gap of income inequality in the country.”

Akbayan Youth chairperson Justine Balane said student councils, Sanggunian Kabataan and youth leaders all over the country are rising up against Charter change, which he said will “short-change” the youth.

“The youth rejects a future where the elite have unlimited years in power, our economy is owned by foreign billionaires, and the people are starved of their human rights,” Balane said. “Walang pakinabang ang kabataan at mag-aaral sa cha-cha. This trapo-led charter change will only short-change our future.”

“In the face of our nation’s pressing problems, present Charter Change initiatives are divisive, wasteful and unnecessary. We urge our politicians to put solving our people’s hunger, poverty, and poor education first!” said Ging Quintos Deles of Tindig Pilipinas and Buhay Ang EDSA Campaign Network.

Koalisyon Laban sa Cha-cha vowed to sustain its efforts to defend democracy. “We are Filipinos. We have the responsibility, courage, and fervor to strive for the governance of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace in this generation and future generations,” it said.