It is not the time to make changes to the country’s basic law.
This was the position expressed by several Catholic church leaders in the Philippines following proposals by some government leaders to amend the 1986 Constitution.
The bishops said that instead of pressing for changes in the country’s basic law, political leaders should focus on uplifting the lives of people caught in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Prioritize bills that will uplift their living and working conditions,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos on Balanga.
“Give emphasis on jobs creation, improvements of internet connectivity, especially with modular and online learning (in schools during the pandemic),” he added.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, echoed Bishop Santos’ position, saying that politicians should be sensitive to the needs of the people.
He said the proposal to change the constitution amid the global health “is another sign in insensitivities of politicians.”
“It is not [Charter change] that the people need but food, jobs, health, education,” said the Manila prelate.
Bishop Arturo Bastes, retired prelate of Sorsogon, said that to press for a change of the Constitution is “self-serving” and a “very bad move.”
“There is no need for a Charter change now,” he said.
In 2018, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral statement opposing moves to revise the country’s Constitution.
The League of Municipalities of the Philippines has earlier passed a resolution proposing several amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
Among the proposals of the local executives is the lifting of restrictions on foreign investment in industries currently limited to Filipinos.
They believe that allowing majority ownership by foreign investors of some local companies will be “beneficial” to their constituents as long as protection of workers’ rights and the ban on foreign ownership of land are assured.
At the House of Representatives, legislators are expected to discuss the possibility of constitutional amendments when their regular session opens next week.
The regular session of Congress will open on Monday, July 27, with the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In February 2020, a House committee postponed voting on a measure seeking to amend the 1987 Constitution as proposed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, meanwhile, said the government must first focus on the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic than on changing the Constitution.
On Monday, the presidential palace announced that Charter change is not a priority of President Duterte as the government is focused on responding to the new coronavirus disease.
Government spokesman Harry Roque said amending the Constitution never emerged as a priority in Duterte’s weekly addresses to the nation.