Protesters march vs charter change on Edsa
Protests against a planned charter change (cha-cha) and a looming authoritarian regime marked this year’s commemoration of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
More than 2,000 supporters of the “No to Cha-cha Coalition” led by the Movement Against Tyranny, rallied on Saturday at the People Power Monument on Edsa in Quezon City on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the day when Marcos and his family were finally driven out of Malacañang and fled to Hawaii.
“It is imperative for us to mark the Edsa anniversary with actions that reject efforts to amend or revise the Constitution, to give the President dictatorial powers, and delete or dilute the Constitution’s provisions on social justice, human rights and sovereignty,” the Movement Against Tyranny said.
The Edsa revolt gave birth to the 1987 Constitution, which President Duterte and his allies in Congress wanted to change to establish a federal form of government through a constituent assembly.
The planned charter change could result in a postponement of elections scheduled for 2019 and the extension of the terms of office of elected officials and the President himself.
Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa and other police and interior department officials had organized “Lakad Tokhang 2,” a march in support of the war on drugs as the protesters started heading toward the People Power Monument. The two groups, however, did not cross paths.
The protesters stopped at the gates of Camp Crame where they demanded the release of all political prisoners, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis.
Speaking to former communist rebels earlier this month, Mr. Duterte justified acting like “a dictator,” saying that if he didn’t do that “nothing will happen to this country.”
In his Edsa anniversary message that was quite a contrast to this strident authoritarian tone, the President called on Filipinos to “further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedom.”
He said the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution showed how courage and resolve could alter the course of a nation’s history.
“Since then, [it] has become an enduring symbol of our determination to fight for what is right and—during our country’s most crucial and trying times—to defend and uphold our cherished democratic values,” he said.
Mr. Duterte, who will be in Davao City on Sunday, is skipping official Edsa celebrations for a second time, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan, coconvenor of the Movement Against Tyranny, said the Edsa anniversary protest was not just about Cha-cha. “This whole thing is really about dictatorship,” she said.
Bayan said the proposed Charter change and the shift to federalism were “maneuvers to centralize power and extend terms of elected officials” and “install a fascist dictatorship.”
“Edsa reminds us that dictatorships do not last forever,” Bayan said. “It is a warning to all would-be tyrants that the people will always resist and triumph over authoritarian rule, no matter how long and no matter how difficult.”
In Lucena City, members of the Quezon Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines announced their opposition to the planned Charter change during its annual general membership meeting on Saturday.
Addressing the meeting, human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag said the 1987 Constitution might not be perfect but urged lawyers to “make sure that we will not come up with a worst one.”
Constitutional law professor Carlo Cruz, another guest speaker, challenged former Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s assertion that the victory of Mr. Duterte in the last election was a declaration of the people’s support to his federalism plan.
“With utmost respect to the Chief Justice, I think his mathematics was misplaced. While it may be true that 15.9 plus million elected this President, the Chief Justice forgets that more than 25 million voted against this President,” said Cruz, also a bar reviewer and noted law books author.
“He (Duterte) speaks as though all Filipinos are afraid of him. I have news for him. That is not true,” he said. “Filipinos finally and eventually will fight back.”
“The people are starting to speak out very vocally against many actions and statements of this administration. If it wants to survive, it would have to hear what the people are saying,” Cruz said.
Resigned Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and his group, Laban ng Masa, are calling for a “People’s Constitution” as they rejected both the administration’s proposed Charter change and the 1987 Constitution, which they said was “riddled with so many antipeople and antiworker provisions” that only served “the interests of the country’s ruling elites.”
Bello said the Constitution could not be entrusted to politicians and warlords or technocrats and experts “far removed from the voices of the marginalized sectors.” —Reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Jaymee T. Gamil, Krixia Subingsubing, Jocelyn R. Uy and Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
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