Bishops: People’s initiative dubious, Cha-cha brazen power grab move

The One Negros Ecumenical Council (ONEC) on Friday, January 19, slammed what it called a brazen power grab by the Marcos administration through a dubious “People’s Initiative” to amend the 1987 Constitution, and urged the people to oppose the move.

“As people of faith, let us unite in prayer and action against charter change, whether through a constituent assembly or constitutional convention,” a statement signed by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Roman Catholic Church, ONEC chairperson, said

“ This proposed amendment poses a grave risk of prolonging the stay of politicians, allowing corruption to fester, further enriching political dynasties and corporate elites, and paving the way for foreign corporations in the future to own our homeland”, it said.

Other signatories are Iglesia Filipina Independiente bishops Virgelio Amihan Jr. of Negros Occidental and Allan Caparro of Negros Oriental, and Bishop Feliciana Tenchavez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

“We have received numerous reports from concerned citizens detailing the use of a template form distributed at the barangay level. Residents are being convinced to sign the petition under the false pretense of receiving monetary or material aid, often connected to the government’s TUPAD programs”, they said.

If this is indeed a “people’s initiative,” why is it entwined with government programs and linked to aid distribution? Such tactics not only undermine the democratic essence of this so-called people’s initiative but also cast doubt on the authenticity of the more than 157,000 signatures in Negros Occidental garnered through this process and passed on to COMELEC, they said.

The Commission on Elections has received forms with 182,447 signatures in support of the People’s Initiative from Bacolod City and 14 other towns and cities in Negros Occidental, Provincial Elections Supervisor Ian Lee Ananoria said.

The Comelec is just receiving the signatures until a petition is filed and they are ordered verify them, Ananoria said.

More signatures are expected to be submitted, he added.

“This proposed reform seeks to seize our Constitution and place it into the hands of entrenched political dynasties and foreign powers. Instead of addressing urgent issues like inflation, unemployment, housing and education crises, and corruption, this initiative appears to prioritize the self-serving agenda of extending political terms in time for the 2025 elections and further surrendering our sovereignty to foreign and corporate entities,” the bishops said.

In Negros, particularly in Bacolod City, we are already grappling with the consequences of the privatization of basic services such as water and electricity, they said.

How much more if, through constitutional change, our land and basic services become 100 percent foreign owned, as cited in its provisions? they asked.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the historical parallels with the tactics employed by Marcos Sr. during the martial law era to approve the 1973 Constitution. Like then, this move seems to be a veiled attempt at consolidating power rather than a genuine effort to address the needs of the Filipino people,” the bishops said.

“We implore everyone to come together in this sacred duty to safeguard the interests of the Filipino people. Let our voices rise in harmony, advocating for alternative measures rooted in justice and compassion, including implementing an independent foreign policy, rejecting neoliberal laws and policies, and realizing genuine agrarian reform,” they said.*

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