01/30/2018, 17.07
PHILIPPINES

Bishops against Duterte’s constitutional changes

Prelates bemoan a “feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured by past experience.” They warn of a lack of transparency and a shift towards authoritarianism, calling on Catholics to be vigilant and understand the risks of "a rash move for a new Charter".

Manila (AsiaNews) – Filipino bishops have come out against changes President Duterte has proposed to the country’s 1987 Constitution.

Meeting for their 116th biennial plenary assembly in Mandaue City (January 27-29), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines (CBCP) has criticised the president’s move towards a federal government and the extension of the mandate of some of the highest offices of the state, without popular input.

"Encouraged by the Social Doctrine of the Church", the bishops write, “we wish to make our moral stand clear and forthright”. The latter includes pastoral guidelines to understand eventual changes to the constitution.

The letter, signed by Mgr Romulo G. Vallegas, archbishop of Davao and CBCP president, identifies "four principles” that are the “bases for moral judgment on this current move towards Charter change”, namely dignity and human rights, integrity and truth, participation and solidarity, and the common good. For the prelate, these fundamental values ​​could be endangered by "a rash move for a new Constitution".

Citing the fears of an authoritarian turn and the lack of transparency, the letter calls on legislators to set aside personal interests and promote instead the "common good".

In fact, “When the move for Charter change becomes self-serving, such as when it calls for ‘No-El’ (no elections) and pushes for an extension of terms of office, it is to be expected that citizens would react with suspicion, astonishment and exasperation.”

The letter goes on to note that “the feeling of a creeping dictatorship is conjured [up] by past experience” and “political dynasties are really and factually becoming a dominant factor in our country’s political life.”

The bishops also raise questions about the proposed federal system and the decentralisation of power by the central government.

A "federal system that devolves power to the Federal States on an equal basis will not satisfactorily address the aspirations of the Muslims and Lumads in Mindanao for self-determination and respect for ancestral rights.”

Instead of changing the constitution, what is needed is the "full implementation" of the 1987 Charter, which "though imperfect” is “consistent with the Gospel".

In view of this, the bishops urge Catholics to be vigilant and reiterate that participation is the heart of democracy.

" We call upon you, dear People of God, to form or reactivate circles of discernment and use your freedom as God’s children to discern, participate, discuss, and debate. Have an informed conscience and decide in the light of Gospel values. Do what is necessary. Persuade our legislators to do only what is genuinely for the good of all on this issue of Charter change.

Finally, “We entrust this urgent moral task that seriously impacts the future of our nation to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, Reyna ng Pilipinas.”

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