by Jerome Aning
from Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A moderate workers’ group on Sunday said it was joining the growing opposition led by civil society and Church-based groups to the renewed drive by allies of President Macapagal-Arroyo to amend the Constitution.
Usually supportive of the administration, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) warned of a popular uprising in the event Congress convenes itself into a constituent assembly (Con-ass) to ram through the changes it wants to make to the Constitution.
One of the fears of the opposing groups is that President Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives will push for term extensions for all elected officials among the changes.
“The people are eagerly looking forward to the 2010 presidential election and to a change in government. Exploiting Charter change (Cha-cha) as an excuse to postpone the polls is totally unacceptable,” said TUCP secretary general Ernesto Herrera in a statement.
Herrera, a former senator, said postponing the elections would frustrate the people’s hopes for change and could drive them to the streets in an instant.
He said the TUCP supported Sen. Mar Roxas’ proposal for a constitutional convention (Con-con) whose delegates would be elected during the 2010 national polls.
Herrera urged Congress to focus instead from now until 2010 on passing new laws to stimulate the economy, save jobs and provide gainful employment to overseas Filipino workers displaced by the global financial crisis.
Citing the history of constitutional change in the country, Herrera said Filipinos “[had been] able to discern self-serving initiatives by politicians.”
He recalled that the 5th Congress convened itself into a constituent assembly from April 1966 to March 1967 to amend the 1935 Constitution.
In the subsequent plebiscite to ratify the amendments proposed by the assembly, Herrera said the voters rejected the first two resolutions that sought to increase the membership of the House and to allow congressmen to run for delegate to the 1971 constitutional convention.
He said the voters ratified only the third resolution which called for a Con-con.