MANILA - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has rejected the proposed constituent assembly (con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution, warning the faithful against self-serving charter change.
The Filipino bishops on Monday released a set of pastoral guidelines amid recent moves to craft a new constitution that would change the form of government to federalism.
The prelates said amending the fundamental law of the land requires widespread participation among Filipinos because this is the heart of democracy.
"Clearly, a move for charter change that involves transforming the Congress into a Constituent Assembly is bound to be deficient of widespread peoples’ participation, discussion, and consultation," the bishops said.
"It would be totally rash for members of Congress to presume the reasoned approval of their constituents on so grave an issue as the move to overhaul the nation’s Charter."
The House of Representatives earlier adopted a resolution to convene the Congress as a constituent assembly.
But the two chambers of the legislative branch have been divided on voting either jointly or separately should they convene as a constituent assembly.
Meanwhile, the CBCP also noted how ideas such as having no elections and extending the term of office of incumbent officials cast doubts on the proponents of charter change.
"It is to be expected that citizens would react with suspicion, astonishment and exasperation," the prelates added.
"In addition the feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured by past experience."
While acknowledging the problems that charter change seeks to solve, the prelates suggested that full implementation of the 1987 Constitution and a revision of the Local Government Code could address issues like massive poverty, corruption, political dynasties, and the centralization of power in the so-called “imperial Manila.”
The bishops also expressed doubt on whether the shift to a federal system of government would "satisfactorily address the aspirations of the Muslims and Lumads in Mindanao for self-determination and respect for ancestral rights."
The CBCP also reiterated its long-standing position that although "imperfect", the 1987 Constitution was consistent with the Church's teachings.
The framers of the current charter included figures from the Catholic Church like Bishop Teodoro Bacani and Jesuit priest Fr. Joaquin Bernas.
The pastoral guidelines tackling charter change was the first under CBCP's new president, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles who is a known friend of the Duterte family.
Amending the constitution that would give way to federalism as the new form of government was one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte during the 2016 elections.