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Group blasts Arroyo for 12 ‘dangerous’ provisions in House draft federal charter

/ 08:14 PM January 01, 2019
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Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER.net / PATHRICIA ROXAS

MANILA, Philippines — A multi-sectoral group on Tuesday warned the public of 12 “dangerous, anti-Filipino, anti-youth, anti-NGO, and anti-democracy provisions” under the House draft federal charter principally authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement, Laiko Warriors, a group of individual businessmen, lawyers, doctors, media practitioners, professionals, and lay leaders from various lay and non-lay groups, among others, said they gathered and met with Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo last Dec. 19, 2018, to discuss Resolution of Both Houses of Congress No. 15 (RBH 15).

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On Dec. 11, 2018, the lower chamber approved its controversial draft federal Charter barely three months since it was filed on Sept. 19. Before this, the leadership abruptly ended the period of debates on RBH 15.

READ: Draft federal Charter gets House’s final nod

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Principally penned by Arroyo – who had three failed attempts at Charter change during her presidency – the draft charter proposes a presidential-bicameral-federal system of government. It was approved on second reading last Dec. 4, with only three session days allotted for plenary debates, and hounded by a question on lack of quorum.

This also came despite Arroyo’s pronouncement in August that there was not enough time to achieve President Rodrigo Duterte’s agenda and campaign promise to shift to a federal form of government.

READ: 2018: House rears its ugly head – again

12 ‘dangerous’ provisions

Laiko Warriors noted that the anti-political dynasty provision, contained in the 1987 Constitution, was removed in the proposed “GMA (Arroyo’s initials) Federal Constitution.”

Pabillo said this would make political dynasties “stronger, bigger and more powerful than they already are.”

“The removal of anti-political dynasty provisions clearly shows that GMA is not a leader of the people, but only of the politicians, especially the political dynasties,” added Atty. Alex Lacson, president of the Pilipino Movement for Transformational Leadership (PMTL), a coalition of various faith-based organizations from the Catholic, evangelical and Protestant communities.

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The removal of the term limits for senators, district representatives, and party-list representatives “clearly shows that the main agenda of Arroyo and her colleagues in the House is to perpetuate themselves in power,” according to Dr. Marita Wasan, president of Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas. 

“Marami sa kanila have become the cause of our many problems in the country. And would we still want them to be in power forever? Lalo lang lalala ang problema ng ating bansa,” Wasan said.

Under the present Constitution, senators are limited to two consecutive terms, while House representatives have a three-term limit.

Victor Gutierrez, the founder of the Families for Truth and Justice, meanwhile, questioned the necessity of increasing the number of House members from 250 to 300 district representatives and the number of party-list representatives from 50 to 60 under the draft Constitution.

“Kailangan pa ba natin ng mas maraming pulitiko, ng mas maraming Kongresista? Pinaghati-hatian na ng mga pulitiko ang ating bansa,” he lamented.

The removal of the State’s policy to encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation–which is contained in the present 1987 Constitution–is “clearly anti-people and anti-democracy,” Patrocinio Cablao, Secretary General of People for Truth and Democracy, said. 

Another dangerous provision is found in Section 26(1), Article VIII of the draft, the group said. This provision gives Congress the power to increase appropriations or budget allocations for the legislative branch and the judicial department more than those recommended by the President.

Joffe Almoro, national president of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, slammed this as a “self-serving provision” which could be prone to abuse. 

The increase in the age qualification for presidential and vice presidential candidates from at least 40 to 45 years old on the day of elections is “anti-youth” because “58 percent of voters in 2016 aged 40 years old and below,” said Ricky Xavier, founder of the People’s Choice Movement.

Section 12 (first paragraph), Article XII of the proposed federal Constitution– which provides that “a federal state may be created upon a petition addressed to Congress by contiguous, compact, and adjacent provinces, highly urbanized and component cities, and cities and municipalities in metropolitan areas through a resolution of their respective bodies…”– is “anti-poor” for Boni Macaranas, founder of Kilos Laiko and a retired professor of U.P. Diliman. 

“Poor provinces and municipalities could be excluded in the negotiation by those political units seeking to create a federal state,” Macaranas added.

Meanwhile, section 12 (second paragraph) which provides that “in exceptional cases, a province may be established as a federal state based on area, population, necessity, geographical distance, environmental, economic, and fiscal viability and other special attributes” is “highly vulnerable to abuse by politicians,” lawyer Edgar Talavera, an officer of the Familia Community, Inc.

Section 13, Article XII of the House federal charter, which gives Congress the power to pass the organic laws or federal state charters that will define the basic structure of government for the federal states, could be an “invitation to chaos and big-time corruption,” said Joseph Francia, an ex-Jesuit priest and former dean of Ateneo’s Economics Department. 

“The creation of federal states could become highly transactional. Political horsetrading could become the norm. And the organic laws creating different federal states could differ, depending on the whims of the members of Congress. Thus, different organic laws could govern federal states,” Francia warned.

Zosimo Porte, founder of the KatolikoAko Movement, denounced as “anti-Filipino” the removal of the provision saying that the ownership and management of mass media “shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations, cooperatives or associations, wholly-owned and managed by such citizens.”

“The proposed provision would open to foreigners the ownership, management and operation of mass media in the Philippines. Time may come that some or all the TV stations, the radio companies, as well as newspapers in the Philippines could be owned by foreign companies that could also be owned wholly or substantially by a foreign country,” Porte said.

Ricky Rivera, a member of the Kabayanihan Movement, meanwhile warned that the removal of the present constitutional provision that limits the ownership, management and operations of any company engaged in advertising industry only to Filipino citizens or corporations or associations with at least 70 percent of the capital owned by Filipinos, could lead to the promotion of the national interests of a foreign country.

Lastly, Lacson said the removal of the constitutional requirement for the Ombudsman to have at least 10 years of experience serving as a judge or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines could be a “big blow on our war against corruption and corrupt officials in government.”

“Remember that the Ombudsman plays a very crucial role in the war against corruption. It is the lead player in the investigation and prosecution of corrupt government officials. If the Ombudsman is not independent and brave, very few corrupt government officials would be investigated and prosecuted,” Lacson warned.

Pabillo further said: “We cannot afford to be silent. Dark politics based on greed, lust for power, lies and violence is destroying our country.”

Wasan claimed many volunteers have come forward to set up provincial chapters for Laiko Wariors as they continue to “resist GMA’s shift to federalism” and “her planned return to Malacañang.” /jpv

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