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Nationwide chacha drive launched here

Bohol became the launching pad of the Charter Change Advocacy Commission’s (AdCom) nationwide information dissemination campaign with the provincial summit on Constitutional reforms Thursday morning held at the Bohol Cultural Center.

Commissioners Raul Lambino who is also the spokesman of the Sigaw ng Bayan Movement and Romela Bengzon flew over to speak to over 2,000 people who represented the cross section of the Boholanos on the need to change the Constitution on invitation of Gov. Erico Aumentado.

Provincial Administrator Tomas Abapo Jr. chaired the committee that organized the summit. Fr. Crispin Varquez of the St. Joseph the Worker parish who led the invocation spearheaded the delegation from the clergy.

After Lambino’s and Bengzon’s presentations, and the reactions of Reps. Edgar Chatto, Roberto Cajes and Eladio Jala, as well as Mandaue City Councilor Carlo Pontico Fortuna, secretary general of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (Ulap), the summit participants reached a consensus on the issues raised on the floor.

The academe, the government sector, non-government organizations, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, even militants who are usually vocal against charter change and other groups did not raise objections to such.

Ulap, headed by Aumentado initiated the campaign. A similar summit was held in Mindoro that day but the Bohol activity was the official launch. Lambino was to take a 12-hour land trip that night in order to speak before a similar crowd in Naga City in the Bicol region the following day.

To note, Bohol topped in the signature campaign to change the charter by garnering 43.3 percent verified signatures from its voting population.

The governor said the basic change sought for is from the presidential-bicameral form to parliamentary-unicameral.

The latter effectively removes gridlocks between the Upper and Lower Houses, and cuts down red tape to a large extent.

“Ulap took a stand through the People’s Initiative after Congress closed the door on charter change,” Aumentado said in his statement of purpose.

The 1.7-million strong union decided that the next step would be a signature campaign and information drive through consultations and summits in order to implement economic and political reforms in the 1987 Constitution.

The Ulap president urged the mayors and their key officials to echo the information gathered at the summit even to the hinterland barangays and remotest islands.

Only then can the people make informed decisions and take a stand, he said.

Bengzon expressed elation over Bohol’s giving the AdCom a pit start through the signature campaign turnout.

“ChaCha is about leadership – but not the leadership of only those from Manila who do not even know the sentiments of the Boholanos,” she said.

The most pressing problem of the country is poverty. Citing statistics, she said one of three Filipinos is poor – the biggest compared to neighbors Indonesia and Malaysia. Four million Filipinos are unemployed, and another 10 million are seasonally employed whose earnings are barely enough to educate their children.

“To address this, we need to generate jobs. This can be done only through foreign investments, hence, the need to adopt a new policy on property ownership by foreigners who have the capital,” Bengzon said, giving Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore that are now economically progressive as examples.

She referred to commercial, industrial and residential lots, operation of public utilities, ownership of educational institutions so that Filipinos no longer need to go to the United States and Australia for masters’ degrees, ownership of mass media and management of advertising, among others.

“Our Constitution should be dynamic, not repressive, otherwise in two years Vietnam will overtake us,” she said.

For his part, Lambino clarified especially to civil servants, the military and the police that there is nothing illegal in their participating in such summits.

“It is your right to know the fundamental law of the land,” he said.

He ran through the history of the Constitution and pointed out its defects. A top-notch lawyer, he said the 1987 Constitution is one of the worst documents he ever read.

“It is not brief or definite; rather it is broad. It is a ‘talkative’ document. Instead of embodying, it curses the past. It does not reflect the present. It does not anticipate the future. It is difficult to understand because it is written like a poem – in Shakespearean prose,” he observed.

Lambino said he could not make heads or tails why the country should spend billions of pesos for Congress to make laws. In 2005, the Senate passed on third reading only 10 laws of which only two eventually became laws.

The money could be spent more wisely elsewhere, like for poverty reduction programs, he said.


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