CBCP hits move to let Congress change Constitution
MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized the move to allow Congress, sitting as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), to revise the 1987 Constitution.
The CBCP on Monday, January 29, also voiced its fears of a "creeping dictatorship" in the face of "self-serving" motives for Charter Change.
At the same time, the CBCP said it is "deeply concerned" that pro-life principles "are most likely to be overturned" under a new charter.
The CBCP made these points in a statement on Monday, after the twice-a-year meeting of the country's Catholic bishops. The 116th CBCP plenary assembly was attended by 68 of the Philippines' 81 active bishops, and 4 other retired prelates.
It was the first plenary presided over by Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, who began his term as CBCP president on December 1, 2017.
In the statement signed by Valles after the plenary, the CBCP said, "Clearly, a move for charter change that involves transforming the Congress into a constituent assembly is bound to be deficient of widespread peoples' participation, discussion, and consultation."
"It would be totally rash for members of Congress to presume the reasoned approval of their constituents on so grave an issue as the move to overhaul the nation's charter," the bishops said.
This was similar to the point made by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former president of the CBCP, in a pastoral guide to his archdiocese on January 15. (READ: Who should draft new charter? Not Congress, Villegas says)
The 1987 Constitution states that the charter can be revised either by Congress sitting as a Con-Ass, or by a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), a body composed of elected or appointed delegates.
On Monday, the CBCP explained the following in its "moral critique of the charter change movement":
- "Given present developments and trends in legislation where pro-life principles are even now being undermined, we are deeply concerned that such principles, which are consistent with the fundamental nature of marriage and the family, and which are now enshrined in the 1987 Constitution are most likely to be overturned"
- Citizens "would react with suspicion, astonishment, and exasperation" when the charter change initiative "becomes self-serving, such as when it calls for 'no-el' (no elections) and pushes for an extension of terms of office"
- In the context of such "self-serving motives," the CBCP said that "the feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured by past experience"
- "Lack of participation, lack of transparency, as well as perceived promotion of self interests" run against the common good
- "A rash move for a new Constitution" places moral values, such as the defense of human rights, "in extreme peril"
The CBCP also asked, "Is it necessary to change the charter in order to devolve power" from the national government to local government units?
The CBCP cited constitutional experts who said what the Philippines needs is to fully implement the 1987 Constitution, create enabling laws, revise the Local Government Code, and more decisively implement the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act.
"We call upon you, dear People of God, to form or reactivate circles of discernment and use your freedom as God's children to discern, participate, discuss, and debate," the CBCP said.
"Have an informed conscience and decide in the light of Gospel values. Do what is necessary. Persuade our legislators to do only what is genuinely for the good of all on this issue of charter change," the bishops added. – Rappler.com