1. The fundamental political and social values enshrined in the Constitution have moral dimensions. Many of these are in accord with the social teachings of various religions. For this reason we as Bishops and as citizens issue this statement.
2. In 1997, our Conference stated a working principle with regard to Charter change: “We are one in our stand against changing the Constitution now…. When the time does come, let it be done with widespread participation and a unity of vision, with total transparency and serenity, with reasons unarguably directed to the common good rather dm to the self-serving interests of politicians. All elected officials looking for an extension of terms must categorically state now that they will not under any circumstance accept any further nominations for office.”
3. Today we once more apply the above stated principle. We note major institutional shifts are being proposed on the claim that they can radically change the conduct of politics in the Philippines. These include the shift from presidential to parliamentary government, and from unitary to federal government.
4. We believe that the gravity of these changes requires extensive study, analysis, and widespread discussion among the many sectors in Philippine society. We do not advocate the convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly. This mode of quick-fix change is not proportionate to the complex and extensive task at hand. The major revisions being considered clearly call for the convening of a Constitutional Convention
5. But the Filipino people have to decide for themselves whether indeed constitutional revision is necessary now. Therefore, a decision-making referendum is in order, as a rider to the coming 2004 elections. Such a referendum should bind Congress to convoke a Constitutional Convention at some near future, so as to begin the process of Charter change.
6. To assist the people to decide for themselves, proponents of Charter change must clearly show that the revisions they are proposing can provide national development much more than the status quo can provide, even when used to the optimum. Therefore, they must answer such questions as:
7.1. Do the proposals increase the capacity of caring for the majority of the people who are poor, by explicitly calling for redistributive measures like progressive taxation?
7.2. Will the shifts lead to more effective representation of people and of social sectors and allow more people to have access to political power? Will the changes finally end political dynasties and draw us away further from patronage politics?
7.3. Will there be concrete measures to strengthen the accountability of public officials?
7.4. If indeed in a fast-globalizing world, it is necessary to open the possibility of ownership by foreigners of Philippine resources, should there not first be a demonstration of clear benefit for the Filipino people (in terms of employment or enterprise development or business opportunities)?
7.5. Do the proposed shifts provide for greater decentralization that effectively devolve powers and enable civil society groups to participate more in governance?
7.6. Will the changes facilitate the creation of principled political parties that are able to really represent the poor, while at the same time ensuring effective leadership based on output?
7.7. Can voting behavior be changed so that people would vote on the basis of platform or clear track records, rather than just popularity, name-recall, or patronage?
7.8. Will we move towards elected leaders with clear majoritarian mandates?
8. Change should be oriented towards a better life for all, especially the poorest. In this, constitutional revision is merely one possible response. It is not the only one and it might not be the most effective at this time. Moreover we know that systems work for the common good only because of the integrity, motivation, and competence of leaders.
Therefore, once again we say that the people themselves must collectively voice their decision in a referendum, but only after thorough discussion, analysis, and discussion. We invite the people to rethink the matter of constitutional change seriously and consider first the common good and the future of Filipino children
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, O.M.I., D.D.
Archbishop of Cotabato
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
7 July 2003
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