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Church leaders open to Charter change

Bishops express cautious approval for constitutional amendments being floated in Congress

Church leaders open to Charter change
Lourdes Abelardo and Julian Labores, Manila

June 10, 2011

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Catholic Church leaders in Manila gave cautious approval on Friday for constitutional amendments being floated in Congress. Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila said that if amending the constitution is inevitable, he wants a provision barring political dynasties in government. “We are open to changes in the Charter so long as the people accept them and they will be for the people's welfare," Cardinal Rosales said. Cardinal Rosales said much of the opposition against Charter change (Cha-cha) in past administrations stemmed from the fear of some politicians using it to remove term limits. “The fear of political clans perpetuating themselves in power has been there since president Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986,” the prelate said. Cardinal Rosales said that fear has blocked moves to amend the Charter. “Perhaps there are indeed provisions that need to be changed. Among them is a provision making sure there are no more dynasties,” he added. The 1987 constitution imposes a single six-year term limit on the president. Senators are limited to two consecutive six-year terms, while members of the House of Representatives are limited to three consecutive three-year terms. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said he fears that legislators might go beyond their promise of changing only the economic provisions of the constitution. Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of Kalookan, chairman of the conference’s public affairs committee, voiced the same reservations but said he is open to looking into the proposals. Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Cotabato said he favors Charter change as long as legislators can assure the changes will be limited to the issues being raised. “I favor it but only on specific agreed-upon issues such as the economic provisions. If not, then we should just go by the existing amendments process in Congress,” he said. Yesterday, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte agreed to begin “exploratory talks” for the possibility of amending the 1987 Constitution. They stressed, however, that the changes to be proposed would be limited only to the law’s economic provisions.
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