Yesterday, in historic Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino, political, religious, business, academic, legal, and civil society leaders gathered to share their thoughts and ideas on how best to to derail Gloria Arroyo's Cha Cha Train. No printed invitations were sent out, each and every person there was either invited by a friend or had heard about it and decided to attend. Although many of us were considered "old" faces from the various anti-Gloria groups, many of the attendess were "fresh" faces, among them , Archbishop Ledesma, former Senator Ting Paterno representing the BBC (Bishop Businessmen's Conference), MAP President Evelyn Singson, normally out of the limelight Hyatt 10 member Johnny Santos, former Representative Antonino, Narzalina Lim, NUSP President Marco de los Reyes and Senator Pia Cayetano. We were grateful for the presence of Cory Aquino, Teofisto Guingona, Senate President Drilon, Representatives Escudero, Magtubo, Baraquel, Rosales, Tanada, Guingona, Cayetano, Golez, Villanueva, Aquino, as well as Mayors Binay and Ejercito. There were a few personalites that couldn't make it to our meeting because of prior commitments but are onboard - Senators Pangilinan, Pimentel, Gordon, Biazon, Magsaysay and Osmena, Representative Neric Acosta. Cesar Buenaventura was under the weather. Bishop Lagdameo was out of town.
As part of the secretariat that put this meeting/workshop against Gloria's Cha Cha, the Black & White Movement, along with members of the Hyatt 10, Akbayan, Laban ng Nasa, UNO and other groups worked over a frenetic two week period to make it possible. We had to be sensitive to the various convictions of those in attendance. Not all of the participants shared the same core beliefs, but what was apparent yesterday was the respect we all had for these beliefs and the willingness to put them aside. Respect, after all, is what Gloria doesn't have for anyone. It was heartening to see it in abundance in Club Filipino.
There were over 150 participants, not counting the media. Apart from the personalities, there were quite a few members from the urban sectors, professors (apart from Randy David), Catholic and Muslim groups, business, and the youth. The whole point of the exercise? To get a good feel of how all those present regard the Gloria Cha Cha train, and how to effectively derail it via a workshop. Cognizant of the attendees' schedules and their general awareness about Gloria's Charter Change Express, the workshop was conducted in an hour, only two questions were asked - how would you describe the present drive for charter change, and what do you suggest we do to promote your stand? Each group of roughly ten people got to report their output for synthesis.
The general sentiment was that the present move for charter change, as opposed to other moves in the past, was not only being hurried, but also, completely lacking in transparency, the amendments were unclear, and immoral. Although there is a need for charter change, this version is unacceptable. The actions proposed were varied. Here are a few - to do a nationwide education and information campaign (some groups are already busy doing forums in many places) via roadshows by members of both Houses, religious and civil society groups, a legal attack via the filing of cases against Cha Cha as well as the gathering of affidavits from people that have been coerced or fooled into signing the initiative (some barangays required those applying for permits to sign before they could get them, others were promised jobs, or were told that they were signing a petition to oust Gloria), and in the event a plebiscite would be held, to aggressively campaign against it.
All in all, a very productive day for all of us. A fitting way to spend a Black Friday, if you ask me. Yes, it is possible to unite to STOP CHA CHA. We are all in this together. Keep tuned in to this blog for updates on our progress.