One Negros Ecumenical Council (Onec) lamented the maneuvers of the current Marcos Jr. regime as it seeks to advance a dubious "people's initiative" for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Article 17.
“As stewards of truth, justice, and peace, we express our profound concerns regarding the ongoing nationally orchestrated petition drive to railroad Charter Change, which disguises itself as a people's initiative,” said the statement that was released on Friday, January 19.
The statement was signed on January 18 by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Onec chairperson; Iglesia Filipina Independiente-Diocese of Negros Occidental Rev. Virgelio Amihan Jr., Onec co-chairperson; United Church of Christ in the Philippines Jurisdictional Bishop Feliciana Tenchavez, Onec council member; and IFI-Diocese of Negros Oriental Rev. Allan Caparro, Onec coordinator, Negros Oriental.
“In this alleged initiative, we have received numerous reports from concerned citizens detailing the use of a template form distributed at the barangay level. Residents are being convinced to sign the petition under the false pretense of receiving monetary or material aid, often connected to the government’s Tupad (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Workers) programs,” they stressed.
They added, “If this is indeed a ‘people's initiative,’ why is it entwined with government programs and linked to aid distribution? Such tactics not only undermine the democratic essence of this so-called people’s initiative but also cast doubt on the authenticity of the more than 157,000 signatures in Negros Occidental garnered through this process and passed on to Commission on Elections (Comelec).”
They stressed that the proposed reform “seeks to seize our constitution and place it into the hands of entrenched political dynasties and foreign powers.”
Instead of addressing urgent issues like inflation, unemployment, housing and education crises, and corruption, “this initiative appears to prioritize the self-serving agenda of extending political terms in time for the 2025 elections and further surrendering our sovereignty to foreign and corporate entities,” they pointed out.
They further stressed, “In Negros, particularly in Bacolod City, we are already grappling with the consequences of the privatization of basic services such as water and electricity. How much more if, through constitutional change, our land and basic services become 100 percent foreign-owned, as cited in its provisions?”
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the historical parallels with the tactics employed by Marcos Sr. during the martial law era to approve the 1973 Constitution. Like then, this move seems to be a veiled attempt at consolidating power rather than a genuine effort to address the needs of the Filipino people,” they added.
They called on the public “to unite in prayer and action against charter change, whether through a constituent assembly or constitutional convention.”
This proposed amendment poses a grave risk of prolonging the stay of politicians, allowing corruption to fester, further enriching political dynasties and corporate elites, and paving the way for foreign corporations in the future to own our homeland, they said.
“We implore everyone to come together in this sacred duty to safeguard the interests of the Filipino people. Let our voices rise in harmony, advocating for alternative measures rooted in justice and compassion, including implementing an independent foreign policy, rejecting neoliberal laws and policies, and realizing genuine agrarian reform. May our collective actions reflect the teachings of Christ and ensure that any changes to our constitution genuinely serve the common good, rather than perpetuating the interests of a selected few,” they added.*