Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Call To Prayer

Despite what Malacanan says, despite malicious rumors that the event may be scuttled by dark elements and by the participants themselves, the prayer rally set for Sunday, 17 December, at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta is still a go. Treat this event like a roll call - if you believe that the attempts to revise our Constitution are ill-timed, please join us.

We will be posting our final arrangements for our motorcade and march to Luneta by tomorrow at the latest. Your participation will be very much appreciated.

And in case you haven't read these statements by Archbishop Tony Ledesma of the CBCP, the Makati Business Club, and the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference, here they are:

Pastoral Letter


The events in the House of Representatives last week that unfolded over TV and other modes of mass media have triggered such a widespread outcry that the proponents for a Constituent Assembly have backtracked from their original position. But the challenge is not yet over.

It is well to ask ourselves why there was such a swelling of righteous indignation in the first place. This was expressed by various sectors ranging from Civil Society groups that characterized the House proceedings as “garapal” (i.e., brazen, callous, desperate) to the CBCP statement that bluntly described the actuations of the House majority as “fraudulently illegitimate and scandalously immoral.”

First, it was the wrong move. The Lower House cannot blithely bypass the Senate in a duly constituted bicameral Congress. It cannot simply change house rules to rush the revision of the basic law of the land. And it should not dispense with the principle of checks and balances in our democracy; otherwise, as has already happened too often in the past, one party may issue all the checks while the people are left with a zero balance.

Secondly, it was the wrong people. Congressmen are elected by districts to represent primarily the interests of their constituents; they cannot be expected to transform themselves overnight to have a broader outlook for the entire nation and to be divested of their localized, much less personalized, interests. The suggestion of postponing the May elections and extending their terms is a blatant manifestation of self-serving interests on the part of the representatives. Even players in a basketball game cannot be their own referee to declare overtime.

We should also be reminded that the present Administration that backed the Con Ass still has to give a full accounting for the “Hello, Garci” tapes, the Bolante fertilizer fund scam, the Mayuga report, extra-judicial killings, etc. Going beyond political partisanship, these are moral issues that continue to prick the Christian conscience. Charter change cannot be made a diversionary tactic to leave unanswered these prior questions on the credibility of the present leadership.

Finally, it was the wrong time. Just when the issue of the People’s Initiative had been resolved by the Supreme Court, the hurried move for a Constituent Assembly raised anew fears of manipulation and railroading (as indeed descriptive of the Cha Cha train). Why the haste in revising the fundamental law of the land? Why not allow the holding first of May elections that are constitutionally mandated and can indeed provide the genuine people’s initiative in retaining or replacing the present leadership?

What then are some lessons we have learned?

First, that we want the rule of law and not of men. Our law-makers should not be seen as law-breakers, or people who bend due process to suit their own interests.

Secondly, that democracy is not only a matter of numbers, but of moral principles. For the thoughtful observer, a well-reasoned objection is more convincing than a hundred “ayes” on the floor.

And thirdly, we can indeed heed the dictum that politicians look to the next elections, whereas statesmen look to the next generation.

It is in this light that as citizens we must maintain our vigilance. On December 17th, there is a call for inter-faith prayer rallies in Manila and other cities, including Cagayan de Oro. This will show our solidarity and social concern over what is happening to our country.

This would also provide an appropriate occasion for us to start forming engaged (and enraged) citizens’ groups in our parishes to prepare for the next elections or referendum. These groups should first enunciate the moral principles they want to be embodied in the leaders that they choose. Moreover, it is perhaps time to look for a new crop of leaders with ideals and Gospel values that can give hope for a brighter future for our country.

Together with other faith communities and people of goodwill we can all join hands and hearts to build the City of Man even as we acknowledge the over-arching moral principles of the City of God.

+ Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.,D.D.
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
12 December 2006



In utter disrespect for the rule of law, Administration allies in the House of Representatives have voted to conveniently amend their own rules in order to pursue their scheme of a Constitutional Amendment through a Constituent Assembly. The move sets a dangerous precedent and does not augur well for the future of democracy and the prospects of policy formulation, predictability, and stability.

Consider the following –

1. The Administration attempted to push for Charter Change through a "people’s initiative". The initiative was struck down by the Supreme Court which referred to the signature collection campaign as a deception, as it was led by the government itself.

2. Public opinion runs strongly against Charter Change, especially by means of a people’s initiative or Constituent Assembly.

3. A Constituent Assembly is fraught with conflict-of-interest issues because Congressmen themselves may be strongly tempted to propose changes to the Constitution which would benefit their political careers (e.g., changes such as term limits, district representation, and others).

4. In order to railroad the change, the House had to first amend its own rules which stipulate that a Constitutional Amendment through a Constituent Assembly requires a vote of the House and Senate voting separately – the method prescribed to pass ordinary laws. This is an open admission that its own argument that a mere joint vote is constitutionally sufficient was flawed to begin with. It also reflects the penchant for changing rules midstream when the rules suit those in power.

5. In order to create a workable timetable for a Constituent Assembly, proponents have proposed that the 2007 elections be postponed to a later date. Should that happen, elective officials whose terms are supposed to end on June 30, 2007 would all be overstaying and therefore illegitimate holders of public office.

6. The move to railroad Charter Change through Constituent Assembly has obviously been timed to coincide with the retirement of the Chief Justice, a pillar of strength in upholding the rule of law.

Such a brazen and desperate act to amend the Constitution in the face of legal defeat and strong anti-Cha-Cha public opinion indicates that the administration and its allies will stop at nothing to bring about changes which may have questionable benefit on the country. We appeal to the Senate and the Supreme Court to unequivocally reject these undemocratic acts.

Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference


With the failure of the people’s initiative, there has been a suspiciously mad scramble to pursue charter change, particularly before the May 2007 elections. Why the rush?

We believe that the changing of the House Rules allowing for a Constituent Assembly without the Senate was a shameless act of manipulation and self-preservation by the charter change proponents, an act which Archbishop Lagdameo accurately described as “fraudulently illegitimate and scandalously immoral.”

We are not against charter change per se. We are against the unduly hasty and underhanded way that the Administration Congressmen are pushing for a constituent assembly. Their desperate and calculating actions are indicative of the considerable vested interests at stake. The haunting possibility of the postponement of May 2007 elections would undoubtedly benefit no one but the congressmen and politicians proposing it. All roads are sure to lead to the extension and expansion of powers for the current administration and its allies.

We echo the CBCP’s call for us all to be vigilant, be involved, and act now. We call on BBC’s members in Metro Manila and in the regional chapters to support activities in their parishes to inform the parishioners about these immoral actions by many of their representatives in Congress, and to condemn those acts. We cannot turn our backs and allow charter change to be railroaded by self -serving politicians. We can not allow charter change by this constituent assembly. Not now. Not by them. Not in this way.

December 9, 2006

1 comment:

manuelbuencamino said...

On Sunday the country will find out who really has the numbers. Consequently, Gloria will do everything in her power to make sure it does not happen.
Make sure she fails.