Anti-Cha-cha Protests Heat Up in Davao

Dec. 13, 2006

Leaders of the clergy, from Catholics to Protestants, as well as progressive and youth groups, have began a series a protest actions against Charter change, which they believe would only worsen the condition of Filipinos at the same time that it entrenches politicians in power. Cheryll D. Fiel reports.

NO TO CHA-CHA: Organizers of the “People’s March” during Tuesday’s press conference vowed to oppose the Arroyo regime’s move to change the Constitution. ( photo by Cheryll D. Fiel)

DAVAO CITY — The People’s March, a broad coalition led by members and leaders of the Protestant and Catholic churches in Davao City and the Southern Mindanao region, began Tuesday its series of protest actions against Charter change.

The group held a press conference at the Freedom Park before marching through Davao City’s main thoroughfares in the afternoon, simultaneous with the anti-Cha-cha march in Manila, where protesters converged near the Batasang Pambansan to denounce what they called as a deceitful attempt by the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to change the Constitution in order to perpetuate themselves in power.

Joining Tuesdays activities were leaders and members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Diocese of Southern Mindanao, organizations belonging to the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), the Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), together with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the youth and student movements Kabataan Party and the League of Filipino Students.

“PEOPLE’S CAMP”: The organizers also pitched a tent at the Freedom Park to serve as venue for protests and their awareness campaign on Charter change ( photo by Cheryll D. Fiel)

After the march, the protesters held a program called “Kampuhan sa Katawhan” (The Peoples Camp) where they invited Davaoeos to join in keeping vigil against any moves by Congress to push through with Cha-cha, an issue that has deeply divided the nation.

They also said they planned to hold a series of round-table discussions and forums in schools and communities in the following days to raise consciousness on the issue.

Sister Elsa C. Compuesto of the Missionaries of the Sisters of Mary echoed Samin’s call on the people to be vigilant, stressing that national sovereignty, the country’s patrimony and the people’s civil liberties are the issues at stake in the move to amend the charter.

UCCP Bishop Constante Claro said the issues plaguing Filipinos at present cannot be solved by changing the Charter, especially because these planned changes will only entrench traditional politics even more. Among the issues that confront Filipinos, the bishop said, are unjust wages, landlessness, and more suffering caused by increasing cost of basic commodities. “To us, it is clear that this is a self-serving move by Congress,” Claro said.

BISHOPS’ MOVE: UCCP Bishop Constante Claro (right) says Cha-cha is “self-serving.” At left is IFI Bishop Delfin Callao Jr. ( photo by Cheryll D. Fiel)

The Reverend Wilmar Bongado, a minister of the Southern Mindanao District Conference of the UCCP, believes the Cha-cha as it is being pushed by the camp of House speaker Jose de Venecia and Davao congressman Prospero Nograles is against God’s will.

“God only wants laws that answer the basic needs of the people, he said. We in the Church will try our best in whatever way we can to fail the moves to change the Constitution at this present time.

Karlos Manlupig, spokesman of the League of Filipino Students Davao City chapter, said that in changing the charter, Arroyo only wants a parliament similar to what Ferdinand Marcos had in order to further concentrate power unto her and her lapdogs.

“It will also serve to bury the issues against the legitimacy of her presidency and her cheating in the last elections,” he said, referring to the Hello Garci scandal that nearly toppled Arroyo.

Manlupig also said Cha-cha will only attack further the civil rights of the people. “They are including provisions in the proposed charter that only further undermines the people’s right to express dissent and fight for their basic rights,” he said.

“With the Cha-cha, the proponents are allowing the country’s lands, national resources and business to be further fed to foreign interests. Cha-cha will only exacerbate privatization and deregulation of basic services, including education. It will almost be the same as opening our lands to foreign military troops, perhaps including the entry of nuclear weapons, too,” Manlupig said.

For Carla Ayashmind Apat, acting regional coordinator of Kabataan Party, the President’s allies in Congress showed their utmost contempt for the people when they passed House Resolution 1450. “Mrs. Arroyo has never been a good example to the youths. It is just right that we continue our moves to oust her regime. The youth will not allow her to worsen the people’s present burdens,” Apat said. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

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