Davao Lawyers Kick GMAs Con-Ass

Dec. 11, 2006
Con-Ass CON-ASSES Enraged lawyers show how they feel about the plan, called Constituent Assembly or Con-Ass, to change the Constitution without the concurrence of the Senate. “There could never be a meaningful Charter change if Arroyo is not ousted,” they said. (davaotoday.com photo by Germelina A. Lacorte)

The different lawyers groups in Davao City have banded together to defy the Arroyo administrations attempt to change the Constitution through questionable means. Davao Todays Germelina A. Lacorte reports.

DAVAO CITY The different groups of lawyers in this city have bonded together against the Arroyo administration’s latest attempt to initiate a change in the Constitution, which some of them consider as tantamount to coercion.

“Any move to change the Constitution at present is only intended to prolong the present administration’s stay in power,” said Carlos Zarate, secretary-general of the United Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao. “A meaningful Charter change can only happen if Arroyo is ousted,” referring to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Zarates group vowed to support the series of protests to be launched nationwide if allies of the president insist in changing the Constitution through questionable means.

Cesar Europa, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines chapter in Davao, called the attempt of the group of House speaker Jose de Venecia, which gave an ultimatum to the Senate to concur with the creation of a constitutional convention in a matter of days as a “hold-up.”

“Coercion is a crime under the Revised Penal Code and what Arroyo’s allies did was tantamount to that,” he said in a press briefing here on Monday, where lawyers showed to the press posters of a buttock with the words “GMA Con Ass.”

The different lawyers’ groups, which include the Free Legal Assistance Group, the Alternative Law Groups Inc., and the Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network, expressed their sentiment after the administration allies led by de Venecia tried to initiate Charter change in Congress through a constitutional assembly (Con-Ass) without the consent of the Senate.

Under the law, the Congress is a bicameral body so that something as fundamental as changing the Constitution has to have the consent of both bodies.

One of the reasons advanced by de Venecia’s group for pushing for Charter change is to abolish what they call as “gridlock-prone” presidential system and change it into a parliamentary form of government, which, Europa said, is “immaterial,” because, according to him, it’s not the form of government that matters but the people who run it. “Try to put these people in the British parliament, for instance, and it would be just the same mess,” he said.

Zarate also called the proposal to lift the protectionist provisions in the Constitution as “dangerous” because it would open the entry of foreign big corporations to land and business ownership in the country at the expense of the impoverished communities, who are already displaced from their lands with the entry of mining and other such companies here.

The lawyers said the administrations move to steer the discussion away from the failed Con-Ass to the constitutional convention (ConCon) to initiate Charter change is questionable. Although the Integrated Bar of the Philippines national leadership had earlier supported the moves to change the Constitution through ConCon, “I haven’t heard yet what the national IBP has to say to this kind of ConCon,” Zarate said.

But, he added, if there should be a change in the Constitution, it should be through a ConCon” but not under the circumstances de Venecia and his group created.

The Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network called the de Venecia-initiated move as a “blatant disregard of the law” and is “plainly distasteful.” (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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