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MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos tuned into primetime evening newscasts on Tuesday, January 9, saw a paid advertisement on the supposed “failures” of the 1987 Constitution to highlight the need for charter change.
“Pangako nila pagsulong pero sa pagbuo ng 1987 Constitution, na-Edsa-pwera tayo (They promised us progress but in forming the 1987 Constitution, we were left out),” the commercial’s narrator said, in a word play on EDSA – a reference to the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos – and etsapuwera, the Filipino term for being excluded or cast aside.
The ad was aired amid questions about the integrity of a fresh charter change bid through people’s initiative. Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman bared over the weekend an alleged plan to bribe voters to sign the petition calling for charter change, while similar campaigns were noted by Senator Imee Marcos and Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte, among others.
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives have been keen on amending the Constitution, saying they would focus on its economic provisions.
The Cha-Cha ad focuses on the alleged losses the country suffered under the provisions of the 1987 Constitution – from business and economic opportunities to missing out on having quality education.
“Ang pinayaman ng Konstitusyon, mamamakyaw at negosyante (The Constitution enriched wholesalers and businessmen),” the ad claimed, without citing facts or other resources to support this allegation.
Over on X (formerly Twitter), the public who were tuning in to newscasts noted that the ad was aired across ABS-CBN, TV5, and GMA.
It is still unclear which advertising firm is behind the commercial or if it was produced in-house.
One of the commercials aired featured a text saying it was paid for by Gana Atienza Avisado Law Offices. Their clientele includes former Senator Panfilo Lacson, Leyte 4th District Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez, and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, a cousin of Speaker Martin Romualdez and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In an interview on Thursday, January 11, with ANC News Channel, the firm’s managing partner, Evaristo Gana, said the ad was meant to spur public discussion on constitutional amendments.
The Ad Standards Council oversees the self-regulation of advertising stakeholders. Its Code of Ethics specifically states that advertisements “shall not contain messages that deride or otherwise discredit the law and its enforcement.”
‘Demonization of EDSA’
Lagman linked the ad to the Marcos family.
“The ‘EDSA-pwera’ charter change ad campaign is part of the Marcos family’s continuing demonization of the EDSA People’s Power Revolution which ousted the Marcos dictatorship and helped install the ‘Cory Constitution’ or the present 1987 Philippine Constitution,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, January 10
“The ad is crudely crafted and there is nothing substantial conveyed in the message,” he added.
Former senator Leila de Lima echoed Lagman, adding that the “trash” ad is “a subtle continued attempt at historical revisionism.”
“This is once again an attempt to muddle facts with relentless lies and false content just to pursue their selfish interests and political agenda. Malinaw ang pakay: Lalo pang lasunin ang diwa ng EDSA habang isinusulong ang charter change (The goal is clear: To further poison the spirit of EDSA while pursuing charter change),” she said in a statement on Thursday.
She said in Filpino that the ad casts doubt on the integrity of the charter change bid, as the argument the ad presents is “based on a defamation, deception, and lies.”
De Lima said that all Filipinos who are conscious of the truth would know who had been cast aside after the EDSA Revolution: “Ang diktador at ang kanyang pamahalaang tadtad ng katiwalian at pang-aabuso (The dictator and his government marked by corruption and abuses).”
De Lima said that the 1987 Constitution was crafted to prevent abuses, especially of those who wish to cling to power.
‘Marcos rehabilitation propaganda video’
Kabataan Partylist also slammed the ad and connected it to the Marcos family.
“The TV ad is a pro-dictatorship and Marcos rehabilitation propaganda video packaged as advocacy. In reality, sinusulong lang nito ang pro-oligarch agenda: 100% foreign ownership ng assets, term extensions, at iba pang self-serving revisions (it is pushing for the pro-oligarch agenda: 100% foreign ownership ng assets, term extensions, and other self-serving revisions),” Kabataan said in a statement on Thursday.
The group called the ad “OA” for claiming that the country’s poverty problem is rooted in the Constitution.
“Limang konstitusyon na ang pinagdaanan natin pero di naman niresolba ng bawat Cha-Cha ang dati nang mga suliranin tulad ng kawalan ng lupa, trabaho, industriya, at pati na rin ang laganap na inhustisya, katiwalian, at pagpapakatuta sa dayuhan,” Kabataan said.
(We have gone through five constitutions but Cha-Cha did not solve the problems on land, jobs, industries, as well as widespread injustice, corruption, and subservience to foreigners.)
“Hindi sa EDSA o sa isang dokumento nagmula ang ating mga problema. Matindi na ang krisis sa ekonomya bago pa mag-EDSA People Power. Baon tayo sa utang noon at hanggang ngayon. Hindi pa rin nalulutas ang mga ugat ng rebelyon. Para umunlad ang bansa, hindi Konstitusyon ang bara, kaya hindi rin Cha-Cha ang sagot,” it added.
(Our problems did not sprout from EDSA or any single document. The economic crisis was already severe before before the EDSA People Power. We had been mired in debt long before until now. The roots of teh rebellion had yet to be addressed. The Constiution is not a hindrance to national development, and therefore, Cha-Cha, is also not the answer.)
Akbayan Partylist said in a statement on Thursday that constitutional amendments are not needed for “crucial actions” that the people want.
Akbayan said the people want “their government to impartially enforce all existing laws, tackle inflation, combat corruption, appoint capable officials – especially a competent education secretary – dismantle political dynasties, and hold all extrajudicial killers and plunderers accountable, starting with the Dutertes.”
“Amending the Constitution will not cure the problem of corruption and poverty,” said human rights lawyer and Martial Law victim Neri Colmenares. – With reports from Reuters/Rappler.com