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Thursday, April 18, 2024

‘Never again or here we go again?’ EDSA 1986 parallels issue of charter change

4 min readLet the spirit of EDSA 1986 continue to prosper not only by calling for press freedom despite silence over a harmless photo, but also a free campus that empowers discourse and supports students' action-building in society.
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Published about 2 months ago on February 25, 2024

by Paolo Antonio Cootauco

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Thomasians have been reminded ever since their first year in the University about the perils of Dictator Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law and the triumphs of Filipinos during the 1986 People Power Revolution. Events during ML included how activists were mauled for silence and cronies utilized shutdown media companies that halted operations due to government propaganda, which were the main headlines of the underground press – which kept fearless reporting afloat.

As Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law on September 21, 1974, which stretched until February 25, 1986, 14 years of human rights abuses, Philippine debt rose to $28.26 billion in 1986, and foiled malicious government programs ended as Filipinos rallied on Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Metro Manila for four days.

Around 9:52 p.m. on February 25, DZRH radio announced with conviction that the Marcoses freed the country, which made Filipinos triumph. Mobilization became the heart of democracy restoration; it was never again for us.

However, Marcos Sr.’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., 38 years later, returned as the country’s president. Fast forward to 2024, his evasiveness during the 2022 elections was diluted by questionable promises of “unity” and travels to make the country “competitive.”

The University and its educators are challenged to keep the story alive and remain vigilant on developments, which include pressing issues like charter change that mirror problems during the Dekada ‘70 that needed proper solutions.

Student-led organizations held mobilizations from their respective campuses going to the People Power Monument in EDSA on February 25, 2024 to uphold resistance over government oppression, questionable “Cha-cha,” and quality action in transport, education, and agriculture sectors.

How does Cha-cha start?

The constitutional commission presented the 1987 constitution to Late president Corazon Aquino on October 12, 1986, ratified it by a plebiscite on February 2, 1987, and proclaimed it on Feb. 11 of the same year. The Congress or people’s initiative may seek revisions or amendments to the constitution decades after its proclamation due to the changing political, economic, and community climate.

Involving the people for constitutional amendment entails at least 12% of registered voters must favor charter change, and 3% at most registered voters per legislative district should sign the petition.

What’s going on with charter change?

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Marcos Jr.’s allies attempted a 1987 Constitution amendment in March 2023 to change economic provisions to attract direct foreign investments.

However, University of the Philippines professor Winnie Monsod affirmed in a Rappler report by JC Punongbayan, “[ANALYSIS] Why charter change is needless right now,” Cha-cha is not sufficient to attract investments and entail unnecessary “burdensome” costs and suggested that the government should divert their energy to solving issues on infrastructure, corruption, and governance.

The report adds that Rodriguez and allies, backed by consulted economists like National Scientist Raul Fabella, suggest that there are some provisions to be dropped and that Filipinos should at least own 60% of the country’s industries.

The amended 1936 Public Service Act during the Duterte Administration that defined shipping, roads, telecommunications, airlines, tolls, railways, and transport network vehicles possible for 100% foreign ownership pushed through without constitutional revision.

Sen. Robin Padilla sought to amend Article VI, or the Legislative Department of the 1987 Constitution by making adjustments on the length and number of terms for seats in the government. However, the constitution only allows presidents and vice presidents to have one term in office.

As 2023 folds, House leaders are assured of focusing on charter change by 2024. According to a Rappler report, Albay 1st district Edcel Lagman sought corruption by starting a People’s initiative by local representatives such as the Ako Bicol party with mobilization funds selling signatories in exchange for P100 became the center of attention to push Cha-cha in the province.

President of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Albay Chapter Raymond Adrian Salceda and Ako Bicol Representative Jil Bongalon denied distributing funds as “false and utterly ridiculous.”

A manifesto by 24 senators condemned charter change through people’s initiative as Senate Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri was concerned that it would go beyond economic provisions such as lifting term limits for officials to stay longer in power.

“[Cha-cha] will destabilize the principle of bicameralism (the house and the senate legislatures) and our system of checks and balances,” Zubiri said.

President Marcos Jr. set aside bribery allegations in exchange for signatures for people's initiative, but it is up to the Commission on Elections to validate the received support. Vice President Sara Duterte stood against Cha-cha since the bribery "exploits the poor and disrespects freedom of choice."

Why should we care about Cha-cha?

If this pushes through, it shows how the next heads of the country resemble Ferdinand Sr.’s reelection last 1969— officials may be reelected and extend their service susceptible to mutiny for personal corruption.

A TomasinoWeb report by Maria Tanglaw, a Blogs writer, said that the Labor sector rejects Cha-cha since they may lose rights essential to workers since it pushes for businesses to possibly be foreign-owned – lobbying a foreign-centric bias in the Filipino workforce and economy.

Mobilization matters

People Power Revolution resounds with calls to condemn the charter change by numerous progressive groups and organizations such as Akbayan.

Akbayan Party president Rafaela David via Inquirer said that Cha-cha should be opposed and taken as a fraud, simply portraying a "trojan horse" perpetuating those in power.

Allen Ballesteros, Anakbayan - UST chairperson, told in a press release on Feb. 17 that allowing 25 to 50 years rent of not more than 1000 hectare sized ancestral lands may be abolished by the Congress due to Cha-cha that will lead Filipino farmers to lose their land, dampening income losses due to foreignization of lands leading to high markup price of services and goods.

After 38 years of fighting for independence from oppression and corruption, people are in the streets again, amplifying the roar of change. Two years into Marcos's presidency, students, specifically Thomasians, hampered mobilization and its importance of sounding the call to reject the government's self-serving charter change.

Progressive groups along the university belt like Anakbayan - UST, KPL - UST, Kabataan Partylist, SAMASA PUP, League of Filipino Students UST, LFS UST and FEU, among others, spoke against Cha-cha on Feb. 16 in front of their respective institutions.

They call on “let organizations gain autonomy and value their rights,” “resist student leaders' crackdown,” “prioritize student learnings over profit,” “refuse privatization of public universities,” and “hold Marcos Jr. government accountable,” to deter charter change.

Let the spirit of EDSA 1986 continue to prosper not only by calling for press freedom despite silence over a harmless photo, but also a free campus that empowers discourse and supports students' action-building in society.

#BuhayAngEdsa

#EDSA@38

Profile picture of Paolo Antonio Cootauco

Paolo Antonio Cootauco

Reports Writer

Paolo Cootauco is a Reports Writer for TomasinoWeb. He is a “mothering moment” in the Journalism community. An esoteric Barbie doll that reports critical news stories to pop-culture events nationwide. During his astral projection, he served, ate, and left no crumbs as a Mover in Rappler MovePH. Paolo, also known as cootaucs, upholds doll domination, doll shenanigans, and dollification.

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