SAVE for a couple of TV ads by One Voice, the anticipated “great debate on Charter Change” has so far been a one-sided affair as efforts to challenge the claims of the Arroyo administration and groups pushing for drastic changes in the 1987 Constitution in the media have been few and far between.

Understandably, given the formidable resources at their disposal, Malacañang and its anointed charter-change adherents are dominating the information campaign waged on all fronts, including attempts to push for Cha-Cha via a people’s initiative.

Realizing this lopsidedness, lawyers’ organizations under the Alternative Law Group (ALG) have joined hands with at least 500 people’s organizations composed of peasants, workers, indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors in launching a nationwide campaign to oppose efforts of the government to tinker with the 1987 Constitution.

The month-long campaign called “Walang Gloria sa Cha-Cha” has lined up a series of press conferences, school hoppings, TV and radio guestings, concert, awareness-building through public forums and mobilizations in various cities and provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Lalabanan namin ang Cha-Cha ni GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), sa kalye man o sa korte,” said lawyer Marlon J. Manuel, ALG spokesperson and executive director of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan). “Charter change was designed to perpetuate the illegitimate rule of a fake president, re-establish dictatorial rule, violate the people’s democratic and political rights and totally give up the country’s economic sovereignty to foreign interest.”

Debunking the arguments of pro-charter change groups, the ALG said the public must be warned about the “seven deadly sins” contained in the Arroyo-led Cha-Cha as these are detrimental to the interest of the poor and marginalized sectors of society and the country’s political and economic sovereignty.

As ALG pointed out, the Cha-Cha’s “seven deadly sins” are:

  • One, it will subjugate the country’s economic sovereignty to foreign interests.
  • Two, it will make Arroyo an impeachment-proof president.
  • Three, it will pave the way for Arroyo’s dictatorial rule.
  • Four, it will give Arroyo the power to declare martial law sans the scrutiny and review of Congress and the Supreme Court.
  • Five, it will indefinitely suspend the writ of habeas corpus.
  • Six, it will lead to the proliferation of private armies and paramilitary groups.
  • Seven, it will weaken sectoral representation and the party-list system.

Manuel said the proposed deletion of several provisions in Article XII (National Economy and Patrimony) of the 1987 Constitution will not address the problem of poverty. Instead, he said, it will subjugate the country’s economic sovereignty to foreign interests by allowing foreign ownership of the country’s residential and industrial lands, the utilization of the country’s natural resources (logging, mining and fishing), and the operation of the country’s public utilities (water, electricity and communications) by companies that are 100-percent owned by foreigners.

Such proposals will be inimical to the country’s economic interests since the primary motivation of foreign companies is to amass profit and not to provide public service, said Lawyer Ingrid Gorre, head of the policy advocacy team of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), an ALG member-organization.

Gorre also claimed that the Cha-Cha proposal “would lead to the massive conversion of agricultural lands for residential and/or industrial use and would defeat the aim of redistributing farm lands to landless tillers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.”

Allowing the use of the country’s natural resources by wholly-owned foreign companies would also further threaten the land rights and livelihood of thousands of indigenous peoples as ancestral lands would be further opened up to large-scale mining operations controlled by transnational corporations, she said.

Gorre added that small fishermen and upland forest dwellers would suffer the same economic threat should logging and fishing be totally opened up to foreign investment.

The proposal to increase the number of the required impeachment vote from the present one-third to two-thirds of all the members of the House of Representatives is tantamount to making Arroyo an impeachment-proof president, Manuel said.

“Arroyo will be deemed sacred and inviolable as she would virtually rule without accountability, free from public scrutiny and from allegations of corruption, electoral fraud and betrayal of public trust,” he said.

The proposed Cha-Cha is also feared to pave the way for Arroyo’s dictatorial rule as the president would be given the “frightening power” of dissolving the legislature.

This, Manuel said, would make the legislature a “rubber stamp” legislature. “It would have no other choice but to pass the bills being pushed by GMA and support all her policies, otherwise, it would place itself into the danger of dissolution.”

Other Cha-Cha proposals are likewise seen to give Arroyo broad powers such as declaring martial law beyond 60 days without being subjected to the scrutiny and review of Congress and the Supreme Court; and indefinitely suspending the writ of habeas corpus which would allow her to order the arrest of persons who could languish in jail without being judiciously charged.

The proposal to remove Article 17, Section 24 of the 1987 Constitution, which dismantled the existence of private armies and paramilitary groups, is feared as leading to their return and proliferation. Manuel said this could only worsen political killings and other crimes against activists, journalists and other individuals critical of the government.

Lastly, the ALG rejects the Cha-Cha’s apparent silence on sectoral representation and the party-list system which were enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. This, Manuel said, would weaken the power granted to the poor and marginalized sectors to represent themselves in government and push for the passage of pro-poor bills and the promotion of policies that cater to their interest.

Below is the ALG’s statement in Filipino:

WALANG GLORIA SA CHA-CHA

May ginhawa ba sa Cha-Cha? Ito ba ang sagot sa kahirapan ng mga Pilipino? Ang pagbabago ba ng Saligang Batas ay magpapalawig at magsusulong sa demokrasya at hustisyang natamo natin dalawampung taon matapos mapabagsak ang pamumuno ng isang diktador?

Mga katanungang naghihintay ng sagot upang maunawaan ng sambayanan. Ngunit di pa rin maipaliwanag ng husto ni Gng. Arroyo. Ito ay sa kabila ng malaki nang nagagastos ng kampo ni GMA sa mga advertisements, commercials, media exposure at kung anu-ano pang uri ng kampanya tulad ng huwad na people’s initiative.

Ang hamon ni Gng. Arroyo noong isang taon ay ito: “Let’s start the great debate on Charter Change”. Sinasagot natin ngayon ang hamong ito. Ating ilantad at isa-isahin ang mga lihim sa likod ng Cha-Cha ni GMA.

Una, hindi sagot sa kahirapan ang Charter Change ni Gloria. Ang kasalukyang isinusulong na pagbabago sa 1987 Constitution ay lalong magbubukas ng pambansang ekonomiya sa kontrol ng mga dayuhan.

Ang ating likas yaman tulad ng minahan, ng kakahuyan at ng pangisdaan ay pagpapasasaan at pagkakakitaan ng mga transnational corporations. Pati na ang mga public utilities tulad ng tubig, kuryente at komunikasyon ay patatakbuhin na rin ng mga dayuhan na ang pangunahing layunin ay ang pagkakamal ng malaking tubo at di ang interes ng sambayanang makaahon sa kahirapan.

Kapag natuloy ang Cha-Cha, maging ang mga lupaing agrikultural na dapat ay matagal nang nasa pag-aari ng mga magsasaka ay nanganganib na na mai-convert sa industrial at residential na gamit upang maging pag-aari na ng mga dayuhan. Lalo ring lalala ang kasalukuyang pagtataboy ng mga katutubo mula sa kanilang ancestral lands dahil lalo pang ibubukas ang mga lupaing ito sa kontrol ng large-scale mining operations.

Pangalawa, pag natuloy ang Cha-Cha, magiging “impeachment-proof” president si GMA. Mahihirapan nang matanggal si GMA sa puwesto sa pamamagitan ng impeachment. Isa sa panukala ng Cha-Cha ay itaas ang bilang ng impeachment vote sa two-thirds mula sa one third ng buong kasapian ng Kongreso. Kung gayon, magpapatuloy ang pamumuno ni GMA hanggang 2010 na malaya at ligtas mula sa dumaraming alegasyon ng corruption, human rights violation at betrayal of public trust tulad ng malinaw pa sa sikat ng araw na ebidensya ng electoral fraud. We would have a president ruling without accountability, safe and sound from public scrutiny.

Pangatlo, magiging diktator si Gloria pag natuloy ang Cha-Cha. Ang Cha-Cha ay magbibigay ng kapangyarihan kay GMA na lusawin ang lehislatura. Ito ay isang malawak at nakakatakot na kapangyarihang wala si GMA sa ngayon dahil ang ganitong presidential power ay di nakasaad sa 1987 Constitution. Dahil mabibigyan siya ng kapangyarihang lusawin ang lehislatura, matatakot at magiging sunud-sunuran sa kanya ang mga kasapi nito pati na ang oposisyon. Sa ilalim ng panukala ng Cha-Cha, ang parliament ay magiging “rubber stamp” parliament.

Pang-apat, ang dating Martial Law powers ni Marcos ay babalik din sa pamamagitan ng Cha-Cha ni GMA. Tatanggalin sa 1987 Constitution ang “safety mechanisms” at “checks and balances” sa pagdedeklara ng martial law. Sa ilalim ng panukalang Cha-Cha, bubusalan ang bibig ng lehislatura. Tatanggalan ito ng kapangyarihan na mag-suspinde o mag-revoke ng dineklarang martial law ng pangulo. Maging ang Korte Suprema ay magiging pipi din. Tatanggalan ito ng kapangyarihang i-review ang “factual basis” ng pagproklama ng Martial Law.

Pang-lima, ang pagsususpinde ng writ of habeas corpus ay maipapatupad ng pangulo anumang oras at kahit gaano katagal niyang naisin. Dahil dito, maaaring mabulok sa bilangguan ang mga taong ipapahuli niya ng di nasasampahan ng kaukulang kaso at kung gayon ay di mabibigyan ng pagkakataong maipagtanggol ang kanilang sarili sa harap ng hukuman.

Pang-anim, maging ang probisyon sa 1987 Constitution na nagbabawal sa pag-iral at operasyon ng private armies at paramilitary groups ay tatanggalin din sa Cha-Cha ni GMA. Kung magkakagayon, maaaring dumami pa ang private armies at paramilitary groups sa bansa. Maaaring lumala pa ang kasalukyang nagaganap na sunod-sunod na pagpatay sa mga aktibista at mga mamamahayag. Di ba’t ganito rin ang nangyari sa panahon ni Marcos? Nabago ang kahulugan ng “salvage” — imbes na iligtas, iligpit ang naging kahulugan nito.

Pampito, ang karapatan ng mga mahihirap at marginalized sectors na makibahagi sa pamamahala ng goyerno ay maaring mapawalang-bisa rin ng Cha-Cha ni Gloria. Sa pamamagitan ng local sector representation at party list system, pinagtibay ng kasalukuyang Konstitusyon ang pagbibigay ng karapatan sa mahihirap at naaaping sektor ng lipunan na direktang makibahagi sa pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno at pagsusulong ng mga polisiya at batas na sasalamin at sasagot sa mithiin ng sambayanan. Pinagtibay ito sa 1987 Constitution bilang sagot sa kawalan ng accountability, transparency at consultation sa ilalim ng diktatoryal na pamumuno ni Marcos. Ngunit nagbabadyang malusaw o mapahina ito kung matutuloy ang Charter Change.

Ito ang mga hubad na katotohan sa likod ng Cha-Cha. Malinaw na di kaginhawahan kundi lalong kahirapan ang dulot ng Charter Change. Malinaw na lalo pang pagsikil sa demokrasya at karapatang pantao ang hatid ng tren ni Gloria. Sinumang Pilipino na may tunay na malasakit sa kanyang bansa ay di magnanais na matuloy ang Charter Change sapagkat ito ay ginawa hindi para sa sambayanan kundi para kay GMA at sa makasariling interes ng mga dayuhan. May langit bang pangako ang Cha-Cha? Ang sagot natin: WALANG GLORIA SA CHA-CHA!!!

ALTERNATIVE LAW GROUPS, INC.
Quezon City
August 11, 2006

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