CBCP to public: Be vigilant on charter change


Posted at Jan 31 2017 08:43 PM

MANILA - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is not yet taking a definitive stance on whether to either endorse or reject moves to amend the 1987 Constitution. 

Nevertheless, the prelates issued stern warnings against proposals that would undermine existing provisions that are consistent with the Church's teachings.

Speaking as the president of the bishops' conference, Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged the public to remain vigilant on the process of amending the Constitution.

"Keep in mind that the drafting of a Constitution and amendments to it should concern all of us. And our overriding concern should be that the provisions of the Constitution and all amendments to be incorporated should be consistent with the Gospel and promote the common good," the archbishop said in a pastoral letter issued on Tuesday. 

The prelate then discussed several issues like holding public officials accountable, human rights, abortion, dictatorial rule and death penalty.

"Let us not allow any public official to act as if he is the master of the people, for a person is elected or appointed to public office to be a servant of the people," Villegas added. 

The archbishop also reminded the future framers of the Constitution that they are only instruments of the sovereign Filipino people.

He said every Filipino must make sure that the resulting document will embody "our rights, our ideals, our aspirations, and our dreams."

The country's bishops are in the middle of their 114th Plenary Assembly.

President Rodrigo Duterte has long declared his support for charter change, specifically the shift to a federal system of government. Duterte believes that the move is necessary to solve the dispute in Mindanao and for the empowerment of local governments. 

The CBCP, for its part, recognized the people's clamor for change but insisted that the proposal must be carefully studied and the people must be well-consulted. 

"Do we need to change from our present unitary system to a federal system of government? Or will it suffice to introduce amendments and laws which will make the present unitary system responsive to the needs of disadvantaged regions?"

Duterte has issued an executive order creating a committee for consultative study of the Constitution.

He has also expressed his support for constituent assembly (Con-ass) as the mode for amending the Constitution. 

Some critics, however, said having a Con-ass revise the Constitution will open it to suspicion that lawmakers will write their vested interests into the charter.