Voters urged: Pick bets who will keep Senate independent
BACOLOD CITY — The Philippines needs an independent Senate that can say no to President Rodrigo Duterte when he asks Congress to convert itself into a Constituent Assembly to revise the Constitution, according to Joseph Francia, one of the convenors of the People’s Choice Movement (PCM).
Francia was the keynote speaker on Monday at the launching of the PCM Negros at the Bishop’s House in Bacolod City, where he said his group was campaigning for the “10 best senatorial candidates that our country and people need during these times.”
This is a crucial election, with the Senate the last line of defense against moves that could lead to a dictatorship, he said.
According to Francia, the PCM, an interfaith movement, is doing what it can to gain support for the 10 candidates.
“Even if we are up against the odds, something has to be done, because if we don’t try, we lose,” he said.
The 10 senatorial candidates are former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and reelectionist Sen. Grace Poe, along with the Otso Diretso opposition team composed of reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino, lawyer Chel Diokno, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, incumbent Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, former Solicitor General Florin “Pilo” Hilbay, former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission Samira Gutoc, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, and former House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada.
Francia called on Filipinos to reflect on the issue over Holy Week because the results of the coming elections would have a big effect on the future of the Philippines.
The lack of an independent Senate would allow a shift to a federal form of government, the federal constitution of which could contain many provisions that would anti-Filipino, anti-people, anti-poor, anti-democracy, anti-youth, and anti-family, Francia, a member of the PCM board, said.
Francia also said that if the President would want to declare martial law only a majority vote in Congress would be needed to make it legal.
“We need an independent Senate that can scrutinize all the loans and agreements that Duterte secretly enters into with China,” he added.
An independent Senate is needed to prevent the President “from allowing or giving China greater access to our government and to our natural resources,” he said.
To have a majority in the Senate, there must be at least 13 senators who can say no to the President, and currently, there are only three opposition senators left, he pointed out.
“That is why we need to elect 10 more opposition senators,” Francia said. “That’s why we need to elect these Peoples’ Choice 10 senatorial candidates.”
The PCM is composed of faith-based members who are urging Filipinos to choose candidates based on principles rather than popularity and name recall, he said.
“It’s an uphill climb, but we should not lose faith,” he said.
He said that, in mock elections in universities and schools, it had always been the opposition that came out. Hopefully, he said, the youth would deliver the swing votes.
Senators must be highly moral people, have political will and must be competent, courageous, and trustworthy, he added.
The PCM Negros members are leaders of different lay organizations from Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant communities, as well as faith-based NGOs from various parts of Negros Occidental, Dr. Violeta Gonzaga, PCM Negros convenor, said.
Gonzaga that they would bring their campaign down to the grassroots and through social media as fast as they could/
“This is a getting together of those who cannot stand what is happening to the country anymore,” she said, adding that she was calling on those of like mind to join them.
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