By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Progressives said that the recent moves to amend the Philippine Constitution are “but a desperate attempt of President Rodrigo Duterte to hold on to power and silence critics.”
In a statement, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said she will not be surprised if fellow lawmakers will bring up the removal of term limits in the present charter, among other “self-serving interests.”
This is not the first time under the Duterte administration that lawmakers moved to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which has been hailed as a product of the anti-dictatorship movement and contains safeguards against the rise of another tyrant.
As early as his presidential campaign, Duterte has been vocal in his desire to amend the constitution purportedly to shift to a federal form of government. Just before 2018 ended, the House of Representatives railroaded the Resolution of Both Houses No. 15, which critics described as having “little to do with federalism” and deals more on term extension, strengthening of political dynasties, and allowing greater foreign control over the economy.
In an aired speech last week, Duterte reiterated his calls for a charter change. This time, he wants to remove the partylist system, claiming that this would finally put an end to the armed conflict in the country.
Former Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap said that removing provisions of the partylist system in the Philippine Constitution will only diminish and ultimately remove the opposition in the lower chamber.
Hicap is referring to members of the Makabayan bloc who have been opposing Duterte’s policies.
Duterte himself repeatedly red-tagged progressive partylists and human rights workers, labeling them as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
In recent months, red-tagging of activists, progressive lawmakers, and even journalists intensified. This has translated to physical harm, including killings, arrests, and filing of fabricated charges.
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Cha-cha would address the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Hicap maintained that the proposed Cha-Cha would further exploit the country’s land and sea resources because it will remove the protections on sovereignty and national patrimony.
He said that proposals include 100-percent foreign ownership of land and other strategic sectors in the economy including but not limited to mining, education, media, utilities, advertising, health, and other public sectors.
Independent thinktank Ibon Foundation also debunked the claim that an increase in foreign direct investments means better economy. If at all, the annual foreign direct investments have increased fifteen-fold from 1981 to 2013 but the government’s own data still show chronic poverty and inequality.