CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (By Ben Balce, Joel Escol and Susan Palmes / Dec 9, 2006) -CAGAYAN de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma yesterday lashed at the House majority over its moves to convene a constituent assembly for Charter change, calling the efforts "fraudulently illegal and scandalously immoral."
But Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano and Rep. Constantino Jaraula, the chair of the House constitutional amendments committee, have this to say about critics of the Lower House’s efforts: ‘‘Ignorant.’’
Protest actions aimed at pressuring the House to drop its plan to effect constitutional amendments by way of a constituent assembly without the Senate’s participation would start tomorrow in the city.
Ledesma was set on presiding over an emergency meeting of residents opposed to ‘‘Con-ass’’ at the Archbishop’s Palace late afternoon yesterday.
Ledesma, in an interview, said he would issue an official statement against ‘‘Con-ass’’ on behalf of the local Roman Catholic archdiocese anytime soon like other bishops in the country.
"We have not favored Con-ass ever since," said Ledesma, referring to the position of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
A bigger ‘‘prayer rally’’ is being organized on Dec. 15 to stop the House juggernaut.
"It will be staged nationwide. The local churches, including those in other places in Mindanao, will participate," said Ledesma.
President Arroyo’s allies here said ‘‘Con-ass’’ critics ‘‘don’t know what they’re saying.’’
"It’s easy to say ‘illegal’ and ‘immoral’... Those who are saying that are all ignorant,’’ said Rep. Jaraula.
Over DxIF-Bombo Radyo, Emano singled out ex-vice mayor Antonio Soriano who has been criticizing moves to change the Charter through a constituent assembly.
"I don’t agree with Soriano," said Emano who has been advocating for Charter change.
Over ABS-CBN-Caga-yan de Oro, Vice Mayor Michelle said the matter would have to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Archbishop Ledesma said he disagreed with politicians pushing for Charter change by way of a constituent assembly.
"There is really a need to respond more collectively to the present crisis," said the archbishop.
‘‘The Catholic Churchs has to respond to this crisis produced by the prospect of Charter change by administration congressmen desperately bent on creating themselves into a constituent assembly."
Ledesma also called on citizens to be vigilant. "The temptation to manipulate and to hold on to power endangers the common good and the safety of the greatest number."
Meanwhile, a multisectoral group opposed to ‘‘Con-ass’’ would start street demonstrations in the city starting from the capitol grounds tomorrow, announced Soriano, the chair of the Black and White Movement here. Soriano is also the regional chair of the opposition PDP-Laban.
The local chapter of the human rights watchdog Karapatan headed by lawyer Beverly Musni and the group of Iglesia Filipina Indiependente’s Fr. Antonio Ablon are expected to join.
On Monday, noise barrage would also be staged at 5 pm to decry congressmen who were taking part in the House juggernaut.
"People should act now. We should be vigilant to protect the Constitution,’’ said Soriano.
Musni, for his part, said Karapatan would join the upcoming nationwide protest actions.
"We cannot let this pass. They (House majority members) are deceiving us,’’ said Musni.
IFI’s Fr. Ablon said his group was expected to issue an official statement against ‘‘Con-ass’’ today.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) strongly raised its opposition to the move of the House majority.
‘‘It was a cavernly act… a show of the tyranny of numbers for self-serving interests. The process is clearly wrapped in the agenda of those who want to further perpetuate themselves in power, including President Arroyo, who is facing serious doubts to the legitimacy of her rule,’’ said NCCP.
NCCP general secretary Sharon Rose Joy Duremdes said the move was ‘‘an obvious attempt to postpone the May 2007 elections, a con that will turn the people into big losers.’’
Duremdes said congressmen disregarded the true aspirations of Filipinos, hence the ‘‘desperate attempt to resurrect an unpopular initiative that was already junked by the Supreme Court.’’
‘‘We are reiterating that the NCCP is not against Charter change. Constitutional amendments are necessary in order for the Charter to ensure the welfare of the citizens. No doubt, the present Constitution stands in need of substantial improvement, but definitely not at this time and certainly not for the wrong reasons,’’ reads a portion of the NCCP statement.
The NCCP also called on its member churches to be vigilant and ‘‘not allow anyone... to ride roughshod on our God-given right to participate in political processes that directly affect us.’’
It called Charter change through a constituent assembly ‘‘double jeopardy where the people are concerned.’’
‘‘We believe that every deed which disregards the well-being of people shall be brought under the stern judgment of our God,’’ it said.