MANILA - The country's top legal minds, among them framers of the 1987 Constitution, and various groups on Tuesday launched a coalition against charter change, warning against the administration's push for the shift to a federal form of government.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide and former Commission on Elections Chairman Christian Monsod, who both served as framers of the 1987 Constitution, led the launch of the "No to Cha-Cha" Coalition at the University of the Philippines College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.
Other top lawyers, among them Sen. Rene Saguisag and former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, representatives from the religious sector such as Sis. Mary John Mananzan and Bishop Deogracias Yniguez, leftist Bagyong Alyansang Makabayan president Carol Araullo, former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, representatives from the Lumads and other sectoral organizations, joined the launch.
Davide reiterated his position against charter change, noting that it would only propagate the power of political dynasties and also lead to feudalism, instead of federalism.
The former chief magistrate, who had warned of revising the Constitution during a Senate hearing last month, also called on senators and members of the House of Representatives to be true to the oath they took, which is to defend the Constitution.
“They should not allow themselves to become a party to the mangling of our Constitution,” said Davide, who had earlier called the 1987 organic law the "best in the world."
Davide also noted that even President Duterte swore to protect the Constitution when he took his oath of office.
The former Chief Justice also noted that creating federal states would result in a large bureaucracy that create juicy positions reserved for those loyal to politicians.
He said it would also be anti-poor as it would mean more taxes.
“This enlarged, bloated bureaucracy will be anti-poor, they will be burdened with taxes of all kinds to support the states,” Davide said.
Monsod, for his part, noted that there is no need for the creation of federal states as there is no deep divide among the Filipino people.
He likewise believes that changing the Constitution is not the solution to problems and that what is needed is the full implementation of laws and programs for social justice.
“The problem is the highly centralized form of government, we believe the only way to bring about equitable growth is for the central government to share power with regions,” Monsod said.
In her welcome remarks before the forum started, Mananzan, an activist nun, said the forum organized by the Movement Against Tyranny is meant to provide clarification on charter change and for the participants to spread the word against revising the Constitution and shifting to federalism.
“When we have clarity, then we can unite and put together all our efforts and struggle. For me, this is the time that people power is needed,” Mananzan said.
Other organizations against charter change recognized during the forum are SELDA, Ligaya ng Panginoon, UCCP, Edsa Pro-Dem, Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, United Methodist Church of the Philippines, Center for Environmental Concerns, Religious of the Good Shepherd, Coalition against Federalism in the Philippines, National Union of People's Lawyers, Pilgrims for Peace, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, Ka-Tribo, and Ibon International.
The forum ended with participants vowing to be vigilant against charter change in a unity statement they read aloud.
The groups said they would gather again in a rally on February 24 at the People Power Monument on EDSA.