“Federalism is just a smokescreen for cha-cha.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “Our children and grandchildren would suffer the most from all these price hikes. We join the protests here for the sake of our children and grandchildren.” On Monday, January 15, Muslim women members of Anakpawis such as Rosalyn Angni said this in explaining why they took the time to join the protest actions held at the gates of the House of Representatives in Quezon City. These women had relocated from Mindanao to Manila two decades ago in search of better livelihood. Some hailed from Lanao and others from Davao.
They are currently sidewalk vendors at Commonwealth Market. They decry the price hikes that they have already observed with the implementation of the Duterte administration’s new tax “reforms.”
Even as they grieved the killings happening in their home province, where Martial Law is in effect, and the devastation to their relatives’ homes by the flash floods that recently happened in Mindanao, they expressed opposition to the TRAIN (Tax Reform For Acceleration and Inclusion) law and, far more destructive than TRAIN, the ongoing efforts to change the Constitution.
The Anakpawis Partylist joined a delegation of progressives who protested in front of Congress against the TRAIN on Monday, and also the protest against the charter change proposals that are currently keeping the lawmakers busy. Like with the anti-poor impact of TRAIN, the proposed changes in the Constitution as embodied in the Joint Resolution No. 8 and in PDP-Laban’s proposed charter change would impact the poor majority the hardest, the leaders of Anakpawis say.
‘Nothing good for the common people in TRAIN or the two proposed cha-cha’
In a different forum, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), shared the study of the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers of the two charter change (cha-cha) proposals which the Duterte administration’s “supermajority” is pushing in the Senate and House of Representatives.
He said the public will be enraged by the proposed changes in the Constitution based on the proposals of PDP Laban and Joint Resolution No. 8.
Both the cha-cha proposals on the table in Congress hold “very unpopular, disgusting” contents that will benefit only these top politicians and the very rich, Reyes said. “Who among the politicians in power today will not want to extend his or her term at no cost?” Reyes asked.
Term extension for politicians
Most Philippine presidents after Cory Aquino tried to push for charter change or cha-cha. All ultimately floundered in the face of public condemnation of proposals to extend the term of the incumbents, from the president down to the barangay captain and kagawads, as contained in and resulting from these moves to amend the 1987 Constitution.
From former President Fidel V. Ramos to Erap’s ‘Concord,’ to the repeated drive under the nine-year Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration to push cha-cha through Con-Ass, and later, through PIRMA, the public’s sharp criticisms of term extension made cha-cha unpopular.
Under former President Benigno Noynoy Aquino’s “economic cha-cha,” he tried to do away with the term extensions but he still failed to push cha-cha.
Now two cha-cha proposals under the Duterte administration embody no-elections and term extensions, and on top of that, income tax reductions for these lucky politicians.
Federalism is just a smokescreen for cha-cha, Reyes of Bayan said. Although being marketed for public approval as a ‘solution’ to Mindanao issues, federalism, he said, is not so much the driving force behind cha-cha but the desire to “keep politicians in power and open the economy to further plunder.”
ATM: Progressive groups hold a picket in front of Batasang Pambansa to register indignation against impending charter change and bogus tax reform program, TRAIN. pic.twitter.com/tOExv5PDjJ
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) January 15, 2018
Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares has been exposing the contents of the proposed cha-cha to the public the past few weeks – many of these have shocked those who heard it the first time. Among these proposals is the proposed abolition of the Office of the Vice-President. Aside from the vice-president, the party-list system is also target for abolition in the char-cha proposals. Reyes of Bayan equated the target abolition of partylists to removing the narrow share in lawmaking power currently being given to the marginalized sectors.
He said that when it comes to ousting a president even people power will be limited to just voting in elections based on the cha-cha proposals.
“Frontal attack on the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions”
The Makabayan bloc’s study of proposed cha-cha as embodied in the “Joint Resolution No. 8” and in the PDP Laban proposals revealed the push to remove the few remaining progressive provisions in the 1987 Constitution. It seeks to delete in the current Constitution the mandate for industrialization, the provisions for providing job security, comprehensive rural and agricultural development, protection of Filipino professions, protection of the urban poor from demolition without relocation, the tax exemption being enjoyed by non-profit educational institutions, and the restrictions on foreign ownership of educational institutions, media, basic utilities and services, and in the exploration of the country’s natural resources.
Rafael Mariano, former Agrarian Reform Secretary, and Anakpawis Representative, said the proposed cha-cha will give foreign corporations greater freedom to buy or control Philippine lands and seas. With all the benefits going to big businesses and the politicians in power, it is difficult to see how the public will benefit from the proposed charter change, said Reyes of Bayan. The group held their “opening salvo” of protests in front of the House of Representatives on Monday, January 15. They urged the public to join these protests or help at least in the information drive.
As for the Anakpawis Muslim women who joined the opening salvo of these protests, they shared, in candid talks, that they fear the increasing prices and difficult life will likely continue if the charter change pushes through. They have experienced how losing lands and livelihood to huge foreign corporations have not produced decent-paying jobs or accessibly priced goods and services. As relocatees from Mindanao, they knew first-hand the impact of losing their livelihoods when productive parts of the mountains and lands went under the control of foreign-owned plantations and mining interests.