Pinoys too worried to Cha-cha
MANILA, Philippines — With about 17 months remaining in office, the Duterte administration insisted on pushing its move to amend the Constitution despite a pandemic with no end in sight, the worst economic recession in decades and millions of jobless Filipinos.
And even if it did not even meet half of its 2-million target, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) submitted to the House of Representatives on Wednesday a petition calling for the lifting of “restrictive economic provisions” in the Constitution.
But the petition, spearheaded by a task force headed by the DILG, carried only 555,610 unverified signatures with 24 resolutions of local government units, including one issued by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.
The number of alleged signatures on the petition was 0.93 percent of the country’s estimated 60 million voters and a far cry from the 7.2 million verified signatures, or 12 percent of total registered voters, required by law for a people’s initiative to even be considered by Congress.
‘Growing public support’
“If not for COVID-19, we could have gathered more signatures but because the DILG turned its attention to the pandemic, we migrated our signature campaign online and relied on our civil society organization-partners starting March of 2020,” said DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya.
The petition was meant to show what Malaya said was “growing public support to reforms in the 1987 Constitution especially the lifting of restrictive economic provisions to encourage foreign capital flow and investments into the country.”
Malaya said the signatures were gathered from online and physical signature campaigns conducted by the DILG, the group Constitutional Reform Movement, and other groups and individuals.
Constitutional Reform Movement chair Vicente Revil, on the other hand, said the DILG’s submission of the documents to the House of Representatives was “right timing mixed with public clamor” to correct the flaws in the Constitution.
Revil said, “We have collected more than just numbers and papers. We have compiled sentiments of the people who suffered a lot because of the social, economic and political flaws of the Constitution.”
But activists, who suspected that the House’s move to amend the Constitution was only meant to tinker with the term limits of public officials, gathered outside the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City to urge lawmakers to attend to more important things.
The activists kick-started an online #BakunaHindiChaCha movement to underscore the importance of securing enough vaccines to beat back the coronavirus over moves to amend the 1987 Constitution a year before the 2022 elections.
Moreover, they feared that Charter change (Cha-cha) was being used as a pretense to push for term extensions despite its many failures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With just a few months before the elections, Cha-cha would serve as an instrument of the Duterte government to get away from its criminal responsibility,” said peasant women’s group Amihan chair Zenaida Soriano.
The only “long-term” solution to the pandemic, says Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap, was the inoculation of a significant segment of the working population, with due consideration to vaccines developed by established pharmaceutical companies.
But even if the government managed to shore up enough resources to sufficiently cover its adult population, it would also have to hurdle the dismal vaccination confidence among Filipinos
The farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said the government must conduct an information drive about the importance of vaccination to allay fears and apprehensions.
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