Cha-cha push under Marcos admin ‘most dangerous’ yet

CEBU. Neri Colmenares, chairperson of Bayan Muna, in a press conference in Cebu City on Tuesday, March 5, 2024.
CEBU. Neri Colmenares, chairperson of Bayan Muna, in a press conference in Cebu City on Tuesday, March 5, 2024.Photo by Kaiser Jan Fuentes

A HUMAN rights lawyer and activist said the push for amendments to the 1987 Constitution, or charter change (Cha-cha) under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is the "most dangerous" one to date.

Neri Colmenares, chairperson of Bayan Muna, urged Cebuanos to be more vigilant and aware of the potential implications that may arise from the passing of Cha-cha, which he said will directly affect every Filipino citizen.

"Ito ang pinakamalakas na Cha-cha ever, marami na kami sa Bayan Muna naranasang laban sa Cha-cha (This is the strongest Cha-cha ever, many of us in Bayan Muna have experienced battles against Cha-cha), but this is the most dangerous Cha-cha," he said.

In a press conference held on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Cebu City, Colmenares said that it is well-funded, well-organized, and the first time it is being pushed using all three modes of passage allowed by the Constitution.

The former lawmaker said that aside from the People’s Initiative (PI) signature campaign, the other modes used are Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) and Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).

Colmenares is a former representative of Bayan Muna, a member of the Makabayan bloc, during the 14th, 15th, and 16th Congress. During the 2022 National Election, he ran for senator but placed 24th.

He said the allies of the Marcos, particularly in Congress, are making efforts to expedite Cha-cha by ensuring victory through their numerical advantage.

He emphasized that proposed changes to the Constitution could directly impact every citizen, particularly due to economic revisions aimed at attracting foreign investors, potentially threatening provisions safeguarding Filipinos from foreign corporations.

In December 2023, Marcos announced that the government had initiated a study on potential amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution to attract increased foreign investment.

Colmenares particularly emphasized the dangers of the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” as it could mean that changes can be made as if legislators were passing an ordinary law.

"Private companies acquire a public utility and their main interest is of course profit and public service is just an afterthought," he said, adding that through Cha-cha, not only does it allow public utilities to be sold to private companies but to foreign private businesses.

He said public utilities include water, electricity, transportation, education, and communication.

Aside from the economic risks, Colmenares also said that included in some Cha-cha proposals is the term extensions proposal for the president and other local officials.

"Kung bibigyan mo ng second term, babalik tayo sa dating gawi na ang presidente, pag-upong-pag-upo sa Malacañang, pinaplano na nya siyempre ang kanyang sariling re-eleksyon," he said.

(If you give him a second term, we will revert to the old ways where the president, right then and there, when he sits in Malacañang, is already planning his re-election.)

He said this push is particularly proposed separately under Resolution of Both Houses 1 and 5.

Under the current Constitution, the term of a president is only a six-year term. However, proposals suggest that it should be extended to two terms.

He added that term extensions in local government unit positions are also included in the pushed Cha-cha, particularly extending the three years each term of mayors, congressmen, and governors to five years each term.

Colmenares urged leaders to address the pressing needs of the people instead of pursuing Chacha, which he considers a "self-serving agenda."

He stressed the need to prioritize increasing wages, implementing land reform, supporting agriculture, lowering prices of essential goods, improving governance and social services, and combating corruption, among other key issues.

"Ang kahirapan at korapsyon ay hindi nagmula sa Konstitusyon kung kaya ang pag-amyenda dito ay hindi solusyon," Colmenares added.

(Poverty and corruption do not stem from the Constitution, that’s why amending this is not the solution.)

Colmenares is in Cebu since Monday, March 3, for a series of three-day education campaign on the implications of Cha-cha to students, youth and church groups. (KJF)


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