The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) gathered individuals, groups and personalities in a briefing in Quezon City in a forum to register their stand against the plans of the Duterte administration to convene a Constitutional Assembly (ConAss) to change the Philippine Consitution, announced days before the resumption of the session of the both houses of the Philippine Congress next week.

Bayan Muna and National Union of People’s Lawyers chairperson Neri Colmenares, who led the briefing, said that the ConAss plan for Charter Change (ChaCha) poses grave threats to the Filipino people’s basic human rights, national sovereignty and independence.

He also expressed fear that the possible railroading of Duterte’s ConAss and ChaCha might be used for vested interests of legislators and President Rodrigo Duterte himself for possible term extension beyond 2022.

Out of the various bills on ChaCha which has been filed in the House of Representatives and Senate, Colmenares saw the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 8 as the most possible version that might make progress. He also mentioned that a separate version of a draft Constitution is being pushed by Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban.

Colmenares stressed that both RBH No. 8 and the PDP-Laban draft constitution were clear tools of the ruling party for its grand plan for a ‘dictatorial and tyrannical rule.’

“RBH No.8 has dangerous transitory provisions with ConAss as procedure as it will grant dictatorial powers to Duterte, dilutes people’s rights, dissolves Congress, grants Marcosian presidential decrees powers and will let the president exercise executive and legislative powers all at the same time under the first Federal Congress is convened,” Colmenares explained during the briefing.

Aside from the executive and the legislative, Colmenares said that it is also a close possibility that President Duterte can still control the judiciary as he can also use ChaCha and ConAss for appointing new court officials from the regional CA’s and district courts under the planned federal form of government shift plan.

He also mentioned that the proposed bill would cut the terms of all incumbent members of various independent constitutional commissions upon its ratification. According to him, the fifty-seven (57) members of the Commission on Elections, Court of Appeals and the Civil Service Commission would all be appointees of President Duterte.

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Political and economic implications

In the forum, Colmenares said that ConAss under the present government would push nothing but ‘a self-serving Constitution.’

He also expressed his fear that once the move to convene ConAss and changing the Constitution will be implemented,  a ‘no election’ scenario in 2019, extending terms in office of the President, senators and congressmen from three years to five years, abolition of the vice president office and the elimination of the party-list system will be its initial political casualties.

Colmenares also said that Duterte’s ConAss is a clear attack against the ‘protectionist’ economic provisions that would shift the function of the Lower House of Congress over corporate lobbying by big foreign transnational corporations.

“The PDP-Laban version of a new constitution repealed and deleted social justice provisions, opens economy to TNCs and aliens, dilutes people’s rights as it pushes for federal parliamentary system,” said Colmenares.

He said that Filipino legislators and Duterte would surely use ChaCha to amend the Constitution and take out provisions against foreign ownership that will surely exploit and use our natural resources, allow transnational corporations  (TNCs) to own and control education, media, public utilities, industries and economy.

Provisions of income tax exemptions for all heads and government leaders in the executive, legislative and judiciary were also part of RBH No. 8.

Colmenares noted, “The glaring deletions of various provisions in the present constitution also attacks, threatens and violates people’s rights to initiative and to amend laws, demands of indigenous peoples for genuine autonomy, peace process and people’s quest for just and lasting peace.”

Finally, Colmenares and MAT called on the public to oppose ChaCha and ConAss at all costs. They also vowed to conduct series of protests and various forms of activities in the coming days to counter these moves of the Duterte administration.

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