Farmers, fisherfolk, laborers start protest vs Charter change

Published by rudy Date posted on April 14, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Farmers, fisherfolk and laborers have started their 54-day camp-out at the House of Representatives to protest renewed attempts to pass a resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly.

Anti-Cha-cha groups are scheduled to stage a motorcade today from St. Peter’s Church in Commonwealth Avenue to Batasang Pambansa in time for the hearing of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

“The people must remain vigilant to thwart these last minute, desperation attempts. (Yesterday) was just the start of the protests. There will be more if Cha-cha is asserted,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

Bayan members yesterday marched along Batasan Road and converged with members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Anakpawis party-list, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and protesting farmers from Southern Tagalog under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Reyes said the idea of keeping President Arroyo in power, whether as president or prime minister, will result in “a politically untenable situation” that is similar to the situation in Thailand.

Reyes believed that Mrs. Arroyo wishes to stay in power, this time as prime minister, to buy herself immunity from suit and to continuously expand her economic and political interests.

Citing information from Bayan’s “reliable sources,” Reyes claimed that the President has been going to Pampanga on an almost weekly basis, “lending credence to fears that she may attempt to run as congresswoman and prepare the way for her ascension as prime minister in a parliamentary form of government.”

The “Rural People’s Camp-Out for Genuine Land Reform and Against Charter Change” will end on June 6.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said that from April 13-20, farmers and fisherfolk from Rizal, Laguna and Batangas provinces under the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), KMP, Anakpawis and Pamalakaya will take center stage in the 54-day campout, followed by fisherfolk and farmers from Bacoor, Cavite, and other Batangas towns under Kasama-TK and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog from April 21-27.

Farmers from Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Negros Island, Bukidnon, Ilocos, Cordillera and Bicol regions, and fisherfolk from Laguna Lake will join the campout in May. Peasant women and agricultural workers under Amihan-National Federation of Peasant Women and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), respectively will join the campout from May 1 to June 6.

Meanwhile, former President Joseph Estrada vowed yesterday to lead the rally against the proposed Charter change once it is passed at the House of Representatives.

Estrada said the opposition and the Filipino people can’t entrust the future of the entire Filipino people to corrupt congressmen.

“We will continue the rally against Charter change at the time when they pass it. As far as I am concerned, the Constitution is the Bible of the government. We cannot entrust the future of the people to the crooked and corrupt congressmen. Majority of congressmen are corrupt,” Estrada told The STAR in a phone interview.

Estrada said many things can happen once Cha-cha is allowed, among them the extension of the President’s term.

Estrada said Congress should concentrate on legislating new laws that would help Filipinos cope with poverty.

Malacañang, for its part, said yesterday that Charter change, though an aspiration, is not a priority of the Arroyo administration.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said the Palace is now leaving the matter of constitutional amendments to the House of Representatives.

She said President Arroyo was supportive of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution but the matter is in the hands of lawmakers.

“It (Charter change) is not a matter of life and death,” Fajardo told a news briefing. “If this (amendment of economic provisions) is realized before the end of her term, then okay but if not, we don’t have to push it.”

When asked whether the Palace would commit to pushing only amendments to economic provisions, she said: “ I can’t say that because we cannot interfere in the workings of Congress.”

She also chided Estrada and other opposition groups for threatening massive rallies to oppose Charter change in the scale similar to the protest actions in Thailand that aborted the summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I hope he (Estrada) would be responsible enough. Let us not mislead the people. I’m sure much could be achieved by dialogue and discussions,” Fajardo said. – Katherine Adraneda, Paolo Romero, Philippine Star

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