MANILA, January 16, 2018–An official of the Catholic Church called for public vigilance on the Duterte administration’s bid to rewrite the Constitution, as he warned against Charter change efforts for political ends.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan stressed the need to keep close watch over Cha-cha bid over suspicions that it is a ploy to extend term of office for incumbent officials.
“We find this opportunist and downright morally objectionable,” said Villegas, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“I am not saying that this is so, but if it is so, it would be a grave moral wrong and tremendous injustice,” he said.
The archbishop said Christians have the “moral obligation” to engage in the political process “and to make choices for what is truly just, socially equitable, and empowering”.
“Politicians’ promises should not be the measure. Careful discernment and enlightenment coming from prayerful reflection with fellow believers should,” he said.
Malacañang and its allies in Congress have been campaigning for the amendment of the Charter to give way to a federal system of the government.
The leadership in the lower House said that Charter change would be among its top priorities for this year but through a constituent assembly, a process that have been opposed by the bishops.
Even in the past administrations, the consensus among the bishops is that any move to amend the Constitution should be by means of constitutional convention where the public can participate in the process.
Both Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez have earlier floated a no-election scenario in 2019 and a possible term extension for Duterte if the shift to federalism pushes through.
Other lawmakers even declared term extensions are inevitable and necessary.
The archbishop said that for Charter change to be credible, its authors must be known for their “probity and their intellectual acumen”.
“They must be free of vested interests that may render suspect their handiwork as a document that embodies their own interests rather than those of the people,” Villegas said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)