Philippine churches to open for charter change debates

Church leaders warn against diversion of people’s attention from poverty issues

Members of religious congregations lead a protest to demand justice for victims of human rights abuses in the country. Religious congregations in the Philippines are known for their influence in the academe and their development work especially in the country’s poor provinces. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Joe Torres |UCANEWS | Manila, Philippines | February 1, 2018

Philippine religious congregations will be opening their schools, convents, and churches for discussions over the government’s controversial move to change the constitution.

They expressed the same apprehension made by the country’s Catholic bishops last week against plans to amend the 1987 constitution.

The influential church people who run most of the country’s leading universities warned that, “reckless decisions will surely lead our nation into chaos and a bleak future.”

In a statement following their annual meeting on Jan. 31, the Association of Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) stressed the need “to discern well” when deciding over the country’s future.

“Why change the 1987 Philippine Constitution which is a product of the people’s long struggle for democracy, good governance, and social justice?” said the organization.

It warned that moves to change the charter, “threatens to ram through the shift to federalism” even without widespread discussion and debate on the issue.

“We are deeply bothered by the partisanship that has now taken over the reins of charter change and federalism,” read the AMRSP statement.

It also called as “shameless” the proposal to extend the terms of office of legislators while the process of changing the constitution would be ongoing.

“We are concerned that the push for charter change … will divert our legislators and peoples’ attention from the more pressing problems of poverty and a humane quality of life,” said the church leaders.

They said that “as prophets and mystics of our times” they would support “a lively discussion to ensure that it is us, not just a few, charting the future of our nation.”

The religious body leaders committed themselves to the creation of “circles of conversations” on the current situation to amplify awareness on human rights, human dignity, and justice and peace.

They also vowed “to prepare our communities for calls to action when we are called upon to defend dignity and democracy.”

In a statement released early this week, Catholic bishops expressed their opposition to moves to amend the constitution but stopped short of calling on people to reject it.

The prelates cited fears of a “creeping dictatorship” and a lack of transparency as they called on legislators to set aside self-interest and promote the “common good.”

The country’s 31-year-old constitution was ratified by a nationwide plebiscite on Feb. 2, 1987, a year after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country for two decades.

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