Opposition against Charter change kicks off in Davao

Jun. 09, 2009

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY Groups opposed to Charter change urged the people of Davao to join the series of protests to express their outrage against the moves of Congress to change the Constitution.

Calling themselves the Peoples Movement Against Charter Change (Peoples March), the groups of lawyers, workers, teachers, health workers, professionals and church people plan to hold a torch parade on June 10 in time for the nationwide protest against charter change.

No one wants to talk about charter change at this time of hunger and landlessness, said Representative Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Womens Partylist, one of the convenors of Peoples March.

Ilagan said the passage of House Resolution 1109 is intended only for the political survival of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Some members of the city council will also file a resolution opposing Charter change. The group also plans to conduct educational forums in different schools in Davao and to hold a picket in front of the Davao City office of Speaker Prospero Nograles who filed House Resolution 1109, allowing the House Representatives to call for a Constitutional Assembly to change the 1987 Constitution.

Nograles earlier filed the controversial House Resolution No. 737 which would allow foreign groups to own land in the Philippines.

Members of Peoples March did not believe the provisions in the House Resolution 1109 barring any term extension of the President and other government officials will ever be followed once lawmakers start making changes in the Constitution.

Do we trust a President who has been found lying all the time? asked Ilagan, referring to Arroyo whose administration has been hounded by controversies that cast doubt on her credibility, like the Hello Garci scandal.

Councilor Angela Librado- Trinidad said there are more important bills that should be passed instead of changing the Charter. She said the clamor of workers for a P125 across the board wage increase; of teachers for salary increase and of the womens group for the reproductive health bill have largely been ignored.

Congress passed House Resolution 1109 on Tuesday, June 2, a resolution drafted by Camarines Sur representative Luis Villafuerte and filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles, two staunch allies of President Arroyo.

It was a tyranny of numbers, said Ilagan. Only a few voted against the Constitutional Assembly.

Lawyer Carlos Zarate, secretary-general of the Union Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), said changing the Constitution will allow Arroyo to stay in power. But he said House Resolution 1109 is not a binding resolution. Once the Constitutional Assembly convenes, they (lawmakers) can propose any amendment, including changing the presidential form of the government to parliamentary.

In this case, Arroyo can run for the House of Representative representing a district in Pampanga, her hometown. If she wins, she can be elected as a prime minister.

According to Ilagan, some members of the Cabinet already announced their intent to run in their respective districts because Arroyo could no longer rely on some of her congressional allies. They included Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, who plans to run in Bohol; Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales in Iloilo; and executive secretary Eduardo Ermita in Batangas, among others.

The Peoples March also opposed Nograles House Resolution 737, which Zarate said, will only bring about threats to the countrys economic resources. He said it will open up foreign ownership of media outfits, allow foreign lawyers to practice in the country and will allow foreign control of local resources like mining.

Arman Blas, spokesperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, said Nograles HR 737 will only allow big capitalists to control the countrys resources, leading to further exploitation of the workers.

Bishop Constante Claro of the UCCP southeastern Mindanao said the present Constitution may not be perfect but it has provisions to protect the country and Filipino people.

We can protest everyday in front of Nograles office. We have to show him that he is a humiliation in our city, said John Birondo, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Southern Mindanao. (Grace S. Uddin/ davaotoday.com)

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