“Self-serving political elites and dynasties will make it easier for themselves to stay in power such as with term extensions, lifting of term limits, and removing provisions that might potentially be used against them.”
By AIRA MARIE SIGUENZA
MANILA – Progressives are up in arms as the House of Representatives approved on its third and final reading the House Bill 7352 or the implementation of Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6, aiming to create a convention to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution, with an overwhelming vote of 301-7-0 (yes-no-abstain).
Those who opposed the measure were Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, Davao Rep. Paolo Duterte, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel.
Among the bill’s key provisions is the composition of a 316-member Constitutional Convention, which will comprise 251 elected delegates and 63 appointed sectoral representatives. Per the bill, the members of the Constitutional Convention will be selected on the last Monday of October 2023, along with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
The elected delegates will have emoluments or allowances amounting to P10,000 ($181.95) for ‘every day of actual attendance and entitlement to necessary travel and lodging expenses and a tenure of 7 months.
‘A smokescreen for political agenda of Marcos, legislators’
For the research group Ibon Foundation, the looming charter change is just a smokescreen for the self-serving political agenda of the Marcos family and legislators.
“Self-serving political elites and dynasties will make it easier for themselves to stay in power, such as with term extensions, lifting of term limits, and removing provisions that might potentially be used against them,” said Ibon.
Aside from this, Ibon noted that the amendment of the 1987 constitution is upon President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s agenda to erode the post-dictatorship democratic and pro-people character of the Constitution, which was created after the Martial Law of Marcos Sr.
The think tank also debunked the lawmakers’ notion that amending the Constitution will improve the country’s economy and investors, adding that foreign capital will create additional job and income opportunities for Filipinos.
“Liberalizing to foreign investment will not result in the structural transformation of the economy that is so urgent and needed,” Ibon added.
Once the charter change occurred, land, a franchise of public services, investments, and other institutions could be owned and controlled entirely by foreign corporations.
In an earlier statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said that the proposed moves to amend the Constitution may also lead to the removal of existing term limits of government officials, which will effectively extend the terms of sitting officials, allow “deeper entrenchment of political dynasties.”
The group also feared that this will water down “provisions on social justice and human rights, national sovereignty and independence, limited as they already are.”
P750-wage hike instead of cha-cha
Contrary to the claim that a constitutional amendment will solve the rampant poverty in the country, cha-cha will lead to worsened hunger, poverty, and deeper crises for Filipinos, said women’s group Gabriela.
“In a time of economic crisis—joblessness, record-breaking inflation, and shrinking incomes—what Filipinos need most today is an adjustment to our wage system and a strengthening of our social services to keep families afloat.”
For the group, instead of pushing for the anti-people bill, the government should prioritize the P750 ($13.65) national minimum wage hike for Filipino workers.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative and House constitutional amendments committee chairman Rufus Rodriguez said the con-con is ‘not expensive’ and will only cost less than P10 billion ($0.18 billion).
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) previously stated that their initial estimated budget for con-con is around P28 billion ($0.51 billion). This does not cover the P10,000 attendance payment for every delegate.
Farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) assailed the for con-con being too expensive. “More Filipinos will benefit if they allot con-con’s budget to financial assistance. The cost of con-con is even higher than the administered aid for the farmers and fishermen, which only amounts to P1 billion for fuel discount vouchers and P13.3 billion for fertilizer discount vouchers.”
On the other hand, for the workers’ sector Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), lawmakers should prioritize bills that serve the interest of the Filipino people, such as wage hikes, job regularization, protection of workers’ rights, ensuring of public service, and strengthening of the national industry for a self-sufficient economy.
“If there is any bill that the government should prioritize and the congress needs to railroad, this is the wage hike that the Filipino people has been calling for,” said KMU.
Last March 13, the Makabayan Bloc, alongside labor leaders, filed House Bill 7568, which aims to provide a P750 across-the-board wage increase for all workers in the private sector.
As of February 2023, the minimum wage in the National Capital Region (NCR) is only P570 ($10.37), while the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) constitutes the lowest wage of P341 ($6.20).
Across regions, the gap between the family living wage and the minimum wage is still widening, with BARMM having the worst shortfall of only 17.5% of the family living wage.
Moreover, Ibon added that the ‘rapidly accelerating inflation since June 2022 has already caused the P570 minimum wage in the NCR to lose P29 ($0.53) of its value to only be worth P541 ($9.84) as of January 2023.’
The RBH 6 and HB 7352 are pending in the upper chamber. In an earlier statement, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri announced that only 4 to 5 senators support the bill, which is deficient in pushing the charter change in the senate. (JJE)