Cory Aquino to join Dec. 17 Anti Charter Change rally at Luneta , Philippines

Manila--After the series of tropical storms, a new political storm is brewing in the Philippines.

The Icon Of Filipino People Power whose constiution of 1987 is named after ( The Cory Constitution of 1987) --the target of the US-Arroyo regime charter change yesterday said she would take part in the Church-led prayer rally on Dec. 17 to protest the Palace-backed move by administration congressmen, since withdrawn, to amend the 1987 Charter through a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

In a brief statement, former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino also called on the people to join the rally at the Rizal Park . She said in a statement:

“I will join the prayer rally on Sunday at the Luneta to express my moral outrage at the attempt of administration congressmen to foist their processed idea of Charter change upon the nation by turning Congress into a constituent assembly,”

“I share the view that Charter change is a serious undertaking that would need careful and widespread deliberation not only by our lawmakers but [also] by the citizenry they represent,” she said.

Two Bishops Joined the Call to Reject Con-ass

Two more Roman Catholic leaders -- Bishop Socrates Villegas of Balanga, Bataan, and Bishop Emeritus Ted Bacani of Caloocan -- have spoken out against the continuing effort at Charter change (Cha-cha), this time through a constitutional convention (Con-con).

“The primary proof of corrupt governance is the continuous insistence on changing the Constitution,” Villegas said in Filipino in a pastoral statement released to his diocese yesterday afternoon.

“The problem that bears heaviest on our country is not the lack of food and jobs, terrorism, or the string of typhoons. It’s the corrupt politicians and a government with no semblance of decency,” Villegas said.

Bacani called on the people not to “let your guard down” even if administration lawmakers appeared to have scrapped the Con-ass.

“We all know that most of our leaders are abusive. Given the opportunity, they will lunge at it for their own benefit,” he said in Filipino in an interview at the Church-run Radio Veritas.

Villegas said it was obvious that the House majority’s efforts to amend the Charter preparatory to a shift to the unicameral parliamentary system was self-serving.

He urged his parishioners to carefully study key social issues, including Cha-cha.

“One with the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and other groups, we stand firm in opposing the hasty and suspicious effort to change the Constitution,” Villegas said, adding:

“The Constitution should be spared from dirty politics.”

Bacani said Filipinos should remain vigilant because this was “the price of freedom.”

With five months remaining before the midterm elections, he urged the people to keep in mind recent political developments, particularly the politicians aggressively pushing Cha-cha.

He said Filipinos could even keep a list of the House members who had voted in favor of the Con-ass resolution.


Villegas said he was not buying the argument that much of the problems in the Philippine system could be traced to a number of constitutional provisions.

“Corruption is not the handiwork of the Constitution,” he argued. “It can be done only by man. It’s man who should change. It’s man, not the Constitution, that is at fault.”

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz called on the faithful in Pangasinan to gather for a prayer rally in Dagupan City on Friday, to protest the “hasty and manipulative way” by which Cha-cha was being pursued.

Cruz said representatives of his archdiocese’s parishes and youth and civic groups would convene at the St. John Cathedral yard at 1 p.m. on Friday and march to the city plaza.

“We aim to show the people’s reaction to recent events, such as the passage of the Con-ass resolution by the House and the planned constitutional convention,” he said.

But since the Con-ass has been shelved, “we will focus on the Con-con,” he said. “What is [the Con-con]? Do we want it? When do we want it? These are the issues that we will discuss during the rally,” he said.

4,300 cops deployed against rallyist

On the other news sources reported that as many as 4,300 policemen will be deployed for the Sunday prayer rally, according to Director Reynaldo Varilla, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office.

Varilla also said any person making seditious remarks during any of the anti-Cha-cha rallies would be arrested.

“We are always ready and we have raised the preparation level for the rallies and demonstrations. We will strictly enforce BP (Batas Pambansa) No. 880 -- the no permit, no rally policy,” he told reporters in Camp Crame.

Varilla said he would tolerate “freedom of expression” but not statements “inciting to sedition or rebellion.”

Asked if the lay leaders and bishops who had organized the protest rally would be arrested if they violated this warning, he said: “We’ll see.”

“The religious or whoever have the right to free expression as long as they don’t incite to sedition or rebellion. If they break the law, you know what we will do: We will arrest them,” he said.

Varilla met yesterday with rally organizers, including leaders of militant groups and the religious, “to touch base.”

He said an agreement had been forged to ensure that the rally would be “peaceful.”

“It will basically be a prayer rally with a Mass. There should be no political or inflammatory speeches,” Varilla said.

He said he had been assured that the demonstrators would converge at certain points, such as the Liwasang Bonifacio, and march to Rizal Park, and that they would disperse peacefully afterward.

“There will be no streamers and no banners,” he said.

Negotiations with the Police : Fruitful but doubtful

Meawhile , Renato Reyes, secretary general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said no one from his camp would be inciting to sedition.

“Our call is for the administration to stop Charter change whether in the form of a Con-ass or a Con-con,” he said.

Reyes said that while the meeting with Varilla was “fruitful,” he doubted that the points of agreement “would be followed on the ground.”

He said militant groups who held an anti-Cha-cha rally earlier yesterday in Quezon City had been assured by police officials that they would be allowed to approach the Batasang Pambansa compound, but were blocked at the corner of Batasan Road and Commonwealth Avenue.

Varilla countered that the demonstrators were only allowed to hold their rally at the St. Peter’s Church on Commonwealth.

The Quezon City police chief, Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula, also said all applications for a rally permit had been disapproved by the local government.

Political Storm Brewing

Thousands of marchers from organizations allied with Bayan and Laban ng Masa (LnM) had gathered in front of the St. Peter’s Church before moving toward the Batasan complex.

“They still don’t get it,” Reyes said. “The Arroyo-De Venecia Con-con option will surely meet the fate of the illegal Con-ass they have temporarily placed on the backburner.”

Reyes said recent developments merely showed how the Palace-House combine was “arrogantly defying the people’s resounding rejection of their Cha-cha.”

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “the No. 1 reason why people oppose Charter change.”

“No sugar-coated method can change this perception of the people,” he said.

Laban ng Masa said Charter change under the Arroyo administration, whether through a people’s initiative, a Con-ass, or a Con-con, was unacceptable.