Catholic schools ready to fight Cha-cha Focus on more pressing issues, says CEAP


By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:20:00 12/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The biggest organization of Catholic schools in the country is ready to join street protests if the government pushes through with its plan to amend the Constitution, the group director said Saturday.

“We have been approached by many groups (against Charter change or Cha-cha). We are studying their specific objectives,” Msgr. Gerardo Santos, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), said in a phone interview Saturday.

He did not say if the group would attend the Dec. 12 multisectoral rally against Charter change in Makati City.

The CEAP said that instead of insisting on amending the Constitution, lawmakers should focus on two more important issues: The extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and electoral reform for 2010.

The CEAP has 1,252 member-schools.

“We want to ensure that the Filipino people are able to exercise their fundamental right to choose their next set of leaders as provided for in the Constitution,” the CEAP said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net). “Thus, we oppose any schemes to cancel, postpone or change the nature of the 2010 national elections.”

“What we need from our leaders is truth, accountability and genuine social and political reform for the majority. We certainly do not need any Charter change that will only serve the narrow interests of the few who are currently in power,” the CEAP said.
Several other groups, including businessmen, have objected to moves to amend the Constitution, especially after the discovery of a House resolution that would extend the term of elected officials, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, to 2011.

Other religious organizations have already joined the anti-Cha-cha movement.

Jesus is Lord Worldwide Church leader Eddie Villanueva warned the government’s insistence on amending the Constitution now would push the country to the brink of the “worst crisis,” a civil war.

He dared Ms Arroyo and her three constitutional successors—Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles—to take a three-month leave of absence to prove that they were not using Cha-cha to extend their terms.

Villanueva said this was the “ideal solution” to the political crisis triggered by the suspicion that Charter change was aimed at extending Ms Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.

“I want to challenge Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the leaders of Congress to prove their sincerity, if they really have no intention of extending their terms and are only after economic reforms (in the Constitution) in view of the global crisis,” Villanueva said in an interview.

“We can agree to a constituent assembly provided that both Houses will vote separately, and the political leaders from the President to the Speaker should take a leave of absence and let the nonpolitical successor, the Chief Justice (Reynato Puno) be the caretaker for three months,” said Villanueva, who ran against and lost to Ms Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

He said that by having the President’s elder son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, spearhead the signature campaign in the House of Representatives for a constituent assembly, Malacañang has betrayed its real intention to stay in power.

“If they insist on railroading Charter change, we will be forced to go on a nationwide protest. Kung garapalan na, we will entertain other means that are peaceful. If the peaceful avenues fail, then the last resort could be civil disobedience. Just to avoid violence, the people have the sovereign right to resort to civil disobedience,” he said.

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