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Bacolod City, Philippines Sunday, March 18, 2018
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‘Cha-cha road to dictatorship’


National Union of People’s Lawyers chairman Neri Colmenares is asking the Church and the different sectors to oppose Charter Change, which he considers the “road to dictatorship.”

He said yesterday that once Charter Change is approved, it will stay there for many, many years to condemn the next generation of Filipinos to eternal poverty.

Colmenares said this is one of the worst Cha-cha ever, since it has a lot of self-serving provisions like the provision of pork barrel for the president, senators and other top government officials, who will also be exempted from paying income taxes.

It also has provisions that will grant President Rodrigo Duterte very dictatorial powers, citing that he can control Congress because under their Cha-cha, he can appoint members of his Cabinet to Congress. It will also abolish the office of the vice president and give him oversight power over all branches of government, he said.

Colmenares said the Cha-cha will also give Duterte control over the judiciary. It has reduced the retirement age of incumbent justices and judges from 70 to 65 years old. So the entire judiciary will be littered by Duterte’s appointees long after 2022.

He said it will also give the President power to control the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit. They will continue in office for one year after ratification of the Constitution unless removed for cause or become incapacitated.

There will also be massive reorganization of career employees and officials after ratification of the Constitution, Colmenares said.

Colmenares said this is also very dangerous because it qualified the Bill of Rights “only for responsible exercise” of the freedom of speech, press, expression. Who will determine if theexercise of one’s press freedom is responsible? he asked.

They are not tolerant to dissent so these provisionsin the Constitution are very dangerous, he said.

Colmenares said they also open the country’s economy to foreign transnational corporations and foreign economic control. So under their Cha-cha, foreigners are allowed to purchase land, which was prohibited in the 1987 Constitution because this will increase the prices of land.

There will be a problem on sovereignty and security if foreigners will buy all the land because they have the money, he said.

“Even if you support federalism, you should oppose this Cha-cha because this is very dangerous.In fact, this is one ofthe worst Cha-chas ever. If passed, this will have tremendous impact on human rights, and the people, and will result in dictatorial powers for Duterte,” he added.

Colmenares was invited yesterday by the Church and different sectors in Bacolod to talk about the situation/status of Charter Change.

He talked about Charter Change under President Duterte, the pending bills in Congress and what are their impact on the people and the country, during a forum at the Vianney Hall of the Diocese of Bacolod.

Colmenares said the government is conducting aninformation drive on federalism but they fail to inform the people of the provisions of Cha-cha. It is not transparent because they are trying to hide the other provisions from the people.

“Our task is to inform the people of the provisions of the Cha-cha. I believe federalism is just a cover so they could avail of tax exemption, pork barrel,provide dictatorial powers to Duterte and even open the economy to big transnational corporations and big business interests, he said.

Federalism is no longer their main agenda. It is just a cover to insert economic liberalization, repressive powers and self-serving provisions, Colmenares said.

So they are asking the different sectors and the Church to join in opposing the worst Cha-cha ever, he said.*CGS


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