KARAPATAN: Current cha-cha bid is detrimental to people’s rights

January 14, 2024

Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s minions who are deadset on doing his bidding to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution have unleashed a “people’s initiative” after attempts at charter change (cha-cha) last year via the usual avenues of constitutional convention or constitutional assembly were unsuccessful.

The “people’s initiative,” which has been tagged as “politicians’ initiative,” is seen as a shortcut to charter change, with people in poor communities being asked to sign blank sheets of paper in exchange for money. Such accounts strongly remind us of how the 1973 Philippine Constitution was supposedly ratified via “viva voce” just months into the declaration of Marcos Sr.’s martial rule through hastily-called “barangay assemblies.”

The Marcosian stamp is made even more evident with the proponents’ “EDSA-pwera” mantra, as if the constitution that emerged from the EDSA people power uprising’s ouster of Marcos Sr.’s brutal and thieving dictatorship is to be faulted for all the economic ills that have plagued the country for decades.

But it is not only the manner of cha-cha that makes it dubious and corruption-ridden. The very substance of “economic charter change” which calls for the elimination of a provision banning 100% foreign ownership of land, natural resources and businesses, ostensibly to attract more foreign direct investments (FDI), is by itself, a gross violation of the Filipino people’s primordial rights to benefit from the nation’s patrimony.

Under the neoliberal framework, successive post-Marcos Sr. regimes have tried and succeeded in circumventing this constitutional provision without attaining their much-desired goal of enticing more FDI, and certainly without alleviating mass poverty. Progressive economists have already debunked the myth that more FDIs and further liberalization of the economy will solve mass poverty. On the contrary, eliminating the last formal protections for the domestic economy can only result in even more dire consequences for our people.

Allowing “economic cha-cha” will moreover open the floodgates for other self-serving “initiatives” to extend the term limits of politicians, and prolong their stay in power.

The cha-cha “people’s initiative” is a patently Marcosian scheme to facilitate foreign imperialist plunder of the economy which will benefit only the foreigners’ business allies among the local elite. It is a scheme that will run roughshod over the Filipino people’s economic and political rights.

KARAPATAN is one with various communities, people’s organizations, civil libertarians and human rights advocates in denouncing this malevolent bid that will potentially unleash further violation of people’s rights.