Filipino-Americans under the banner of BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations in the United States, are expressing outrage over last night’s vote by the Philippine House of Representatives to approve House Resolution 1109, which would allow for the convening of a Constiuent Assembly (Con-Ass) made of members of the Lower House and Senate in order to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution, or enact Charter-Change (Cha-Cha).
“Con-Ass is a major step towards transforming an undeclared martial rule into the official dictatorship of the Arroyo government,” states BAYAN USA Chair Berna Ellorin. “It is one of the biggest threats to democracy in the Philippines since the days of the Marcos dictatorship, and it must be stopped.”
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself has repeatedly sung of the praises of her proposed amendments to the 1987 Philippine Consitution, including total economic liberalization in favor of foreign corporate interests as well as lifting existing provisions prohibiting the establishment of permanent military bases by foreign troops. But it is the proposed amendment by the Arroyo administration to shift the Philippine government into a parliamentary system, combined with the lifting of provisions that limit martial law powers, that has drawn the most opposition from Filipinos in the Philippines and worldwide.
“Arroyo intends to take over as the new Prime Minister with an indefinite term status if Cha-Cha is passed,” Ellorin continued. “This provides an official policy framework in the Constitution for fascist dicatorship and martial law.”
BAYAN USA also criticized the validity of last night’s Lower House vote for HR 1109, as the vote only came from the one legislative body in the bicameral Philippine Congress.
“They cannot vote without the Senate,” Ellorin continued. “This so-called ‘House Majority’ that voted in support of Con-Ass are not Arroyo allies, but those who have been bribed by the Arroyo administration through pork barrel money in exchange for loyalty to Arroyo. Even the opposition was prevented from airing their views. This is cronyism no different from the Marcos era of massive graft and corruption.”
BAYAN USA also raised that with rampant cronyism at play in the Philippine Congress, it is certain that the Constituent Assembly to convene will not have the best interests of the Filipino people in mind when altering the Philippine Constitution.
Clamor Needed Overseas
Record highs in the number of overseas absentee voter (OAV) registration from Filipinos abroad, including the United States, provides strong indication of overseas clamor to vote Arroyo out of office by 2010.
“Filipinos, especially those of us overseas, cannot trust their own government these days. Filipinos abroad are compelled to be part of the change they would like to see in Philippine politics,” Ellorin ended. “But aside from our ballots, we must engage in community actions and public pressure to make our opposition to Cha-Cha visible to Manila. After all, we keep the Philippine economy afloat with our billions in dollar remittances every year. We must be part of saving what is left of democracy in the Philippine Constitution and in our homeland.”
Street demonstrations protesting HR 1109 have already been confronted with violent dispersals by police near the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.