by JD Benjamin - BASICS #14 (June / July 2009)
People's organizations across the Philippines and around the world are outraged by the Philippines Congress passing of Resolution 1109, legislation that paves the way for the Congress to convene itself as a Constituent Assembly to change the Constitution without the participation of the Senate.
Charter change, referred to in the Philippines as Cha-cha, is widely unpopular as it is seen as a power-grab by current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Her leadership so far has been marked by widespread human rights abuses and corruption scandals, including the murder of almost 1,000 legal mass activists. Once she is out of office, she will lose her immunity from prosecution, so she is desperate to erase the term limits set by the current constitution.
Opposition congressmen attempted to block the motion, but the legislation was rammed through by President Arroyo's allies in a late-night session. “Tonight is a night of ignominy," said Gabriela Women's Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan. "We witnessed the tyranny of numbers.”
Another troubling element of Cha-cha is the proposal to add the word "responsible" into the clause granting freedom of speech and expression. This would grant the state wide latitude in deciding what kind of speech was "irresponsible" and to stifle opponents of the government.
Cha-cha would also further undermine Philippine sovereignty and sell out the country to foreigners as it would delete the 60 percent domestic ownership clause in the current constitution. Filipinos would lose control over their public utilities, natural resources and domestic industries. As the Cordilleras Peoples Alliance said in a recent statement, “Clearly, Cha-cha paves the way for the 100 percent foreign ownership of lands and resources in the country, further marginalizing Filipinos from utilizing these resources. In the Cordillera, ‘cha-cha’ would further displace indigenous peoples from their lands as foreign corporations intensify the plunder of the remaining lands and resources of indigenous peoples.”
A variety of peoples’ organizations have pledged to block Cha-cha by taking to the streets, with protest rallies planned to take place across the country. “The people are not stupid," said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. "They can see the real intent of the railroaded resolution. They will not stand to have Gloria stay in power indefinitely."