CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – A leading civil society organization in Mindanao has expressed vehement opposition to efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution. The group has cautioned against the use of the need to update the Constitution’s economic provisions as a pretext for legislators to justify their vote.
The group, based in Cagayan de Oro, has been recognized as a Mindanao-based civil society organization that has community-based development and peacebuilding teams in areas affected by violent conflicts in Mindanao.
The organization, which has campaigned for federalism, released a statement on Sunday, March 12, stating that the initiative to amend the Constitution was “expensive, untimely, and inappropriate during this time of economic crisis.”
Balay Mindanaw president Charlito Manlupig said his group was optimistic that the proposal would not get the Senate’s nod but expressed concern that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri would lose his position “because of his non-support to the (proposed constitutional convention).”
In its statement, Balay Mindanaw urged the Senate to focus on “other more urgent issues, instead of supporting the actions of the Lower House.”
The group pointed out that the bill received support in the Lower House because its main author, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez, had assured that the bill would only seek to amend economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution via constitutional convention.
“They are completely missing the point. Our advocacy for charter change is premised on the belief that massive poverty, underdevelopment, and unpeace in our country are caused and perpetuated by the skewed political, economic, and cultural relationships between the center and the periphery – a painful characteristic of a unitary system of government,” Balay Mindanaw said.
Rodriguez, who serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendment, maintained that the Lower House would only limit the amendments to economic provisions of the Constitution “to attract more foreign investments.”
“We need additional investments that would create more job and income opportunities for our people,” Rodriguez said.
He said he did not think a P8-billion budget for the Concon and a plebiscite would be a big expense.
Rodriguez quoted retired Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno as saying that the amount should be seen as an “investment for a better future” for the country.
A Cagayan de Oro councilor, George Goking, expressed distrust toward the Lower House members.
Goking said he and many other officials and citizens feared last-minute insertions, something which he claimed was shared by many of his peers during the recently concluded national convention of the Philippine Councilors’ League.
“After the pandemic, there are concerns that need to be addressed through charter change. If there are no last-minute insertions, the Concon will be transparent, and it will not be costly, then I will support the charter change move. But almost all of my colleagues whom I asked at the convention had expressed the same apprehension that there might be insertions,” said Goking.
He also shared Balay Mindanaw’s position that amending the charter via constitutional convention at this time would be costly and untimely given the country is facing a rise in inflation. – Rappler.com
Cong Corrales is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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