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.

'Moral critique'

On Monday, the CBCP explained the following in its "moral critique of the charter change movement": 

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

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.