By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA — As the Philippines is set to embark on the second half of the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate encouraged the public to be vigilant in safeguarding fundamental rights and upholding the country’s sovereignty and patrimony.
Duterte’s final three years will be marked on Monday as he delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“In a single term presidency, the second half will be crucial for his [Duterte] survival,” Zarate told Bulatlat in an interview.
Zarate said that during his first half, the administration already implemented the “war on drugs,” martial law in Mindanao, the tax reform law and others. But Zarate said that there are still more anti-people measures waiting to be in place. One of these is the Charter Change or Cha-Cha.
During his campaign for presidency, Duterte had been open about his desire to shift from unitarian to federal form of government. But last month, he suddenly opted for a change in the constitution.
“…But you should change the Constitution actually. Not for anything. If you do not want federalism, fine. But change the Constitution that would really change this nation. Sabihin ko sa inyo,” Duterte said during his speech on the oath-taking of newly elected officials and Hugpong ng Pagbabago senators at Malacañang.
Duterte has also publicly endorsed his allies Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco to the House speakership and called on them to pass Charter Change.
On paper, the legislative branch of government should be independent from the executive. In the Philippine form of government, power is equally divided among its three branches: executive, legislative and judicial.
Zarate said that all administrations after Cory Aquino have proposed to change the 1987 Constitution. “Why? Because even though it is not a perfect one, that constitution reflected our hatred for the return of dictatorship. It’s the reason why some are calling it the People Power Constitution or Human Rights Constitution,” Zarate explained.
The Bayan Muna legislator added that the provisions in the 1987 Philippine Constitution have a strong leaning for social justice and human rights protection. He said these are the reasons why most landlords and conservatives are determined to see it changed.
“As I said, past administrations have attempted to change it [the constitution]. It’s just that Duterte’s Cha-cha would be worse. He’s not just crossing out the protectionist provisions but he’s also trying to bring back dictatorship together with historical revisionism,” Zarate said.
Zarate also pointed out how the administration rehabilitated and brought back to power discredited government officials such as the Marcos family, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former president Joseph Estrada.
“Let’s expect for the administration to be more desperate in securing their power. Because for them, the clock is now ticking and their reaction to it could affect the country,” Zarate said.
But Zarate also reassured the public that the Makabayan bloc will engage inside and outside the Congress to fight for the rights and protection of Filipinos.
The Makabayan bloc has fielded Zarate for the speakership race. A third-termer, Zarate said the speaker should talk about the issues of the people, not the endorsement of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Makabayan will be composed of six lawmakers in the 18th Congress: Zarate, Tinio, Reps. France Castro (ACT Teachers), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan), and newcomers Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna) and Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna).
On July 22, Zarate called on the Filipinos to take the streets and stand for the country. The greatest fight, according to him is not inside Congress, but out in the streets, alongside ordinary citizens.