Karapatan: Marcos Jr.’s Cha-Cha violates people’s rights

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ‘s charter change project is proving more and more that he is his dictator-father’s son.

Packaged as “economic cha-cha,” it ostensibly aims to do away with provisions in the 1987 Constitution that limit foreign ownership of local businesses and allegedly stifle the country’s ability to attract foreign direct investments.

For decades, however, in subservience to the demands of imperialist globalization, Philippine governments have circumvented the protective provisions in the constitution through several laws exempting sections of the economy, from oil and gas, to mining, the mass media, advertising and education and most recently, telecommunications infrastructure, from the foreign ownership ceilings defined in the charter. And for decades, these laws liberalizing the economy has crippled local businesses and further impoverished the people.

Given this reality, “economic cha-cha” is belaboring what has long been the norm. Charter change is being pushed by the Marcos Jr. regime for other insidious and self-serving purposes. “Economic cha-cha” can easily segue into “political cha-cha” which will introduce constitutional amendments to prolong the stay in power of politicians through the extension of term limits or through a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system.

When the 1973 Constitution was being drafted, Marcos Jr.’s dictator-father had attempted to stay in power beyond his second term through the controversial “transitory provisions” that would have allowed sitting officials to remain in office while the country shifted from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. Timely exposés prevented Marcos Sr. from doing this, prompting him to impose martial law and obliterate all legal encumbrances to his rule.

Indeed, Ferdinand Jr. is the worm-ridden apple that has not fallen far from Ferdinand Sr., the rotten tree. Marcos Jr. is using “economic cha-cha” as a convenient gateway towards the ultimate goal of tinkering with the 1987 Constitution’s political provisions, which were largely born out of the broad anti-dictatorship struggle.

Determined to prevent both the foreign subservience and numerous human rights violations that marked Marcos Sr.’s brutal authoritarian rule, the framers of the 1987 Constitution put in several safeguards against foreign intervention and to protect civil rights. The post-EDSA 1 constitution, reflecting the gains of the broad democratic struggle against Marcosian tyranny, bureaucratic corruption, greed and profligacy, has one of the most expansive bills of rights, with provisions on civil, political, social and economic rights and welfare.

The 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights has been observed more in the breach under a succession of puppet and fascist political rulers, but the people have been able to invoke it in defense of our interests. Today, this impressive array of rights enshrined in the constitution is in danger of being obliterated in order to align it with the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2022. Guarantees against unlawful searches and seizures, illegal surveillance and other breaches of privacy, arbitrary arrest and detention and violations against security of persons are imperiled under a regime that is intolerant to dissent and hellbent on crushing all opposition to its rule.

This dangerous scenario is eerily reminiscent of the months in the run-up to Marcos Sr.’s martial rule. Marcos Sr. first suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971. He declared martial law a little more than a year after the writ suspension, dispensing with civil liberties altogether. Between 1975 and 1985, there were at least 3,257 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 individual tortures, and 70,000 incarcerated, as documented by Amnesty International. At least 737 Filipinos were also reported to have been forcibly disappeared between 1975 and 1985. The actual numbers are considerably higher with Marcos Sr.’s martial law stretching from 1972 to 1986.

Marcos Jr. is fast setting evil records of his own, as he follows the same legacy of fascism bequeathed to him by his dictator-father. Since the start of his presidency in July 2022, he has chalked up 89 victims of extrajudicial killing (EJK), with another 53 surviving attempts on their lives; 13 victims of enforced disappearance; 18 victims of torture; 329 victims of illegal arrest; 546 victims of illegal search and seizure; 24,670 victims of forced evacuation due to militarization; 39,769 victims of indiscriminate firing; 22,391 victims of bombing; and 1,632,463 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation, mostly through red-tagging.

The most number of victims of EJK come from Western Visayas (30), followed closely by Bicol (20), two of the regions singled out for intensified counter-insurgency operations under Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32, which Marcos Jr. has not revoked. There are currently 799 political prisoners languishing in various detention facilities nationwide, 89 of them arrested under Marcos Jr.

Against this dreadful backdrop, cha-cha, whether economic or political, is NOT the answer.

Farmers demand land and genuine agrarian reform. Workers clamor for decent jobs and living wages. The poor assert their rights to adequate social services. The people thirst for civil and political rights for all, and for national sovereignty amid intensifying intervention from foreign powers.

KARAPATAN stands in solidarity with various communities, sectors and groups in opposing Marcos Jr.’s Cha-Cha, as we march today to commemorate the People Power 1 uprising. We will continue to uphold the significance of the Filipino people’s struggle against dictatorships and for genuine freedom and democracy.