charter change

10 Mindanao bishops rebuke ‘bogus, politicians-initiated’ Cha-Cha movement

Herbie Gomez, Max Limpag

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10 Mindanao bishops rebuke ‘bogus, politicians-initiated’ Cha-Cha movement

CHA-CHA HEARING. The Senate on Monday, February 5, starts its hearing on the propose amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'This is a sham, as this initiative does not emanate voluntarily from us, nor is it new to us,' reads a statement released by the Mindanao-based bishops

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Bishops from different Mindanao regions issued a scathing rebuke aimed at the nation’s political figures over what they called a bogus attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution in the guise of a people’s initiative.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, February 14, Catholic, United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), and Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) bishops denounced the nationwide gathering of signatures for charter change, saying the so-called people’s initiative has been exposed as a political maneuver aimed to tamper with the Constitution to serve vested interests.

“This signature campaign is peddled to be a ‘people’s initiative’ but now clearly unmasked as being spearheaded by politicians for the main purpose of tinkering with the country’s 1987 Constitution,” read part of the bishops’ joint statement. 

The group added, “This is a sham, as this ‘initiative’ does not emanate voluntarily from us, nor is it new to us.”

The 10 Mindanao-based bishops who signed the joint statement are the following:

  • Archbishop Jose Cabantan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
  • Bishop Felixberto Calang of the IFI Diocese of Cagayan de Oro
  • Bishop Ligaya Flores-San Francisco of the UCCP-Northern Mindanao Jurisdiction
  • Bishop Julius Dacera, president of the IFI Mindanao Eastern Bishops’ Conference
  • Bishop Gil Dinapo of the IFI Diocese of Bukidnon
  • Bishop Dave Bitos of the IFI Diocese of Pagadian
  • Bishop Romel Tagud of the IFI Diocese of Sugbongcogon
  • Bishop Victom Bitoy of the IFI Diocese of Oroquieta City
  • Bishop Giomary Neri of the IFI Diocese of Koronadal
  • Bishop Redeemer Yanez of the IFI, Cagayan de Oro

Lawyer Dale Bryan Mordeno, chairman of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) in Cagayan de Oro, also signed the statement.

‘Still a good Constitution’

In Central Visayas, Cebu Catholic Archbishop Jose Palma said he was one with those registering their opposition against what has been described as a deceptive move to gather signatures to push for charter change.

“This Constitution is not perfect but we know in itself that it is still a good Constitution. There is no guarantee that charter change, with the proposals being made, would be a better way to approach our many concerns and problems,” Palma told reporters.

The Mindanao-based bishops released the statement a week after they relaunched the No to Cha-Cha Coalition in Northwestern Mindanao following a forum on charter change in Cagayan de Oro.

The bishops said they received numerous reports from various parishes and communities which revealed a disturbing pattern of gathering signatures from unsuspecting citizens, often under the guise of distributing government assistance.

The coalition strongly opposed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, which is under consideration in the Senate. The bishops said this was another ploy by politicians to introduce amendments that would undermine the protective economic provisions of the Constitution.

The bishops expressed concern about the proposed amendments, particularly those about foreign ownership of agricultural lands and public utilities, warning against the erosion of national patrimony and sovereignty.

“We also strongly urge the government to pass laws that are pro-people – those that protect and promote the fundamental human rights of every Filipino as stipulated in the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution, rather than that of the foreign interests,” another part of the coalition’s statement read.

The same coalition has opposed recurring charter change attempts to amend the Constitution through a constitutional convention, constitutional assembly, or a people’s initiative.

It noted that through the years, politicians proposed amendments ranging from altering the form of government to lifting term limits of elected officials and dismantling key protective measures in the 1987 Constitution. Such attempts, the bishops said, were a direct threat to national sovereignty and the well-being of citizens, particularly the working class.

“Indeed, history tells us that behind any administration’s move for Cha-Cha lies clear self-serving political and economic interest,” the group said.

In Cebu, Archbishop Palma told a news conference on Wednesday that he was fully behind the collective statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against the present attempt to amend the Constitution.

Palma said he did not make his stand known immediately because he waited for the CBCP to convene and for Catholic bishops to discuss the matter first. 

In a January 31 statement signed by CBCP president and Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, the Catholic bishops’ group stated, “We are concerned about the reports of signatures gathered across the country for a so-called people’s initiative. Many could sign for various reasons, but it is clear that their signing is not the result of a careful study and discussion.”

The CBCP statement added, “It seems that this people’s initiative was initiated by a few public servants and not truly from the initiative of ordinary citizens. If that is the case, it involves deception and disregard for our true and free participation in the democratic process of our country.” –


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  1. AM

    China, India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam and a host of other progressive nations have restrictions on foreign ownership of land and utilities but are just the same more progressive than us. Which means it’s not the reason or the cause for development and progress. On the contrary, if it happens, be prepared to be tenants and enslaved by foreign interests in our own country.

  2. ET

    Thanks to the concerned Bishops and other signatories for their action. Indeed, I agree that “the nationwide gathering of signatures for charter change, saying the so-called people’s initiative has been exposed as a political maneuver aimed to tamper with the Constitution to serve vested interests.”

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.