Bishops hit Duterte’s charter change drive

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Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles (center) is the new president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. Photo grabbed from CBCP News

THE CATHOLIC Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has expressed reservations over plans to amend the 1987 Constitution, hitting plans to convene Congress as a constitutional assembly to amend the charter and a “no-election” scenario in 2019.

The CBCP said the provisions of the 1987 Constitution were consistent with the Gospel and amending it required “widespread people’s participation.”

“In subsequent attempts at Charter change by our legislators, our moral stand was and remains consistent, namely: Amending the fundamental law of the land, so carefully crafted for the common good after years of dictatorship, requires widespread peoples’ participation and consultation, unity of vision, transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate,” the CBCP said on Monday.

The bishops said the proposal by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for a “no-election” scenario in 2019, when the proposed constitutional assembly convenes, was “self-serving.”

“When the move for Charter change becomes self-serving, such as when it calls for “No-El” (no elections) and pushes for an extension of terms of office, it is to be expected that citizens would react withsuspicion, astonishment and exasperation,” he added.

Warning against a looming dictatorship, the bishops said a constitutional assembly, where lawmakers would directly propose and discuss amendments to the charter, would lack public participation.

If the constitution would be revised at all, the process should “lead to a greater defense and promotion of…moral values of human dignity and human rights, integrity and truth, participation and solidarity, and the common good.”

“Present developments and trends in legislation where pro-life principles are even now being undermined, we are deeply concerned that such principles (human dignity and human rights), which are consistent with the fundamental nature of marriage and the family, and which are now enshrined in the 1987 Constitution are most likely to be overturned,” the CBCP warned.

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed experts, including UST alumni, to be part of his consultative committee that will propose changes to the 1987 charter.

READ: Thomasian alumni appointed to Duterte’s charter change panel

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