In 2019, charter change may ‘unite’ the few and the powerful

When the few and the powerful are celebrating over what is portrayed as a feat to uplift the lives of the Filipino people, ordinary mortals must be on their toes.

Just before 2018 ended, President Rodrigo Duterte’s supermajority in the House of Representatives, headed by former President now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, practically railroaded and laid down the way for charter change that will supposedly establish a federal form of government. But the devil is in the detail, so they say. And looking closely through the veil that the supposed shift to a federal form of government has created is alarming and will definitely put in peril the interests and welfare of the Filipino people.

The shift to a federal form of government has been Duterte’s pet issue since he began his presidential journey and later formed a commission for this. Early on, critics were quick to point out that the moves to amend the Constitution is aimed at installing an authoritarian government that will open up the country’s resources to foreign plunder.

At present, the pending bill to amend the Constitution – the Resolution of Both Houses No. 15 – has “little to do with federalism” and more on “extending current politicos’ terms to 2022, lifting term limits, strengthening political dynasties, and allowing greater foreign control over the economy, said human rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

All these are quite enticing to the few and the powerful, considering that they, too, in the past when they were the ones in power, have pushed for amendments to the Constitution, most especially on the economic restrictions of the present charter.

Deleting or watering down the nationalist provisions of the Constitution will pose threats to land ownership in a country where its farmers are landless, and to job security in the midst of an all-time high unemployment rate. As it stands now, the Duterte administration has failed to curb poverty as the economic growth is at its slowest for the past three years, according to independent thinktank Ibon Foundation.

As in the past moves to amend the Constitution, government agencies have failed to present concrete data to prove that opening up the country’s resources to foreign direct investment will resolve widespread poverty and inequality in the country. In fact, nationalist economists have long said that despite the ever-increasing foreign direct investments in the country since the 1980s, severe inequality in the country has worsened, resulting in an increase in unemployment rate, and forced labor migration.

Ultimately, opening up the country’s finite resources will rob it of an opportunity to reap someday the rewards of a genuine land reform and the development of its heavy industries, which, progressives say, are the answers to the chronic poverty that majority of the Filipino people are experiencing. Meanwhile, self-serving few stands to gain so much from a charter change.

And so while the moves to amend the Constitution may unite the powerful, it may also unite the broader public in strong, defiant resistance – DDS or not. All eyes on the Senate until February 12. Let the people’s voice be heard. (

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