“Cha-Cha” gets heavy beating at forum

“Cha-Cha” gets heavy beating at forum

“The proposed Cha-Cha is anti-Filipino in the sense that it is removing protectionist provisions enshrined in the 1987 Constitution that ensure our right to be in control of our resources.” This was the opening salvo of Bayan Muna General Counsel Atty. Cris Yambot at the 348th session of the monthly Kamayan Para sa Kalikasan Forum, which tackled the proposed Charter Change (Cha-Cha) that would shift the Philippines to a federal form of government.

“Furthermore,” Yambot added, “it grants new and formidable powers to the President, giving him executive, legislative, and judicial control over the entire government. It opens the country wider to transnational corporations, and it dilutes or deletes the social justice and human rights provisions enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.”

Atty. Cris Yambut, General Counsel of Bayan Muna discusses the different versions of Charter Change being proposed in the Congress. She noted that Resolution of Both Houses No. 8 or the version submitted by Former President Gloria Arroyo is the one that has been passed at the committee level. It is primarily because “they have the numbers.”

In relation to foreign ownership, Yambot emphasized that in the proposed versions, transnational corporations would in effect be allowed to own and control lands, including already scarce agricultural lands that produce our food supply, and would lift established limits on foreign ownership of mining companies.

She then pointed out specific provisions in the draft Constitution that would abridge the rights of the Filipino people and reduce or remove their protection against unfair competition from big foreign corporations.

For example, she explained, the right to freedom of expression is put in danger by changing it in the proposed charter to “freedom of ‘responsible’ expression.”

“Who is to decide what’s ‘responsible?’” Yambot asked. “Will criticizing government or attending a rally be deemed ‘irresponsible?’”

In an unusual turn of events, Yambot was the sole speaker in this month’s forum, which always strives to present different sides of an issue. Unfortunately, SAGIP Party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta, one of the authors of the draft Cha-Cha failed to come. Although he had confirmed his attendance up to the day of the forum, he cancelled at the last minute, citing an unforeseen meeting.

Finally, Yambot warned that many of the draft provisions would impact negatively on the environment, and encouraged everyone to carefully study the draft Cha-Cha which is available at the Congress website.

In her closing remarks, Dr. Angelina Galang, President of forum organizer Green Convergence said, “Everything is connected to the environment. We should protect our environment, thus, ownership should be left to the Philippines.”

A bit of politics entered the discussion but Galang enjoined everyone to rise above personal ties, family, alliances and emotional preferences and vote as Filipinos, for the good of the country. She also encouraged citizens and environmental groups to work on influencing lawmakers to reject provisions harmful to the environment and the Filipino people.

Kamayan Para sa Kalikasan Forum has become an institutionalized platform since March 1990 that enables NGO and government representatives, the media, students, teachers, church groups, and concerned citizens to discuss pressing environmental issues in the country. This month’s forum is supported by Kamayan Restaurant EDSA with the assistance of the Forest Foundation Philippines.

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