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Bishops call for vigilance on Charter change, martial law

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Catholic bishops attend Mass in Cebu City. (CBCPNews)

MANILA, Jan. 31, 2017— Catholic bishops on Monday wrapped up their plenary assembly by calling for public vigilance over proposals to amend the country’s Constitution and the threat of martial law.

The bishops did not categorically endorse or disapprove the moves to revise the 1987 Charter but urged the people to particularly keep an eye on the Constitutional safeguards against any abuse of martial law.

“Let us continue to maintain the safeguards against dictatorial martial rule that our present Constitution contains,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he won’t hesitate to declare martial law if necessary to supposedly protect the nation.

Only recently, Duterte said he is eyeing changing martial law provisions in the Constitution to allow its declaration without the approval of Congress and the Supreme Court.

The bishops’ collegial body stressed that rewriting the “the single most important document of our country” should concern all Filipinos.

An overriding concern for the CBCP is that the provisions of the Constitution and all the proposed amendments should respect human rights, value the sanctity of family life, and promote the common good.

At the plenary assembly, the name given to the meeting of Catholic leaders, bishops agreed to offer pastoral guidance whatever decision on the Charter change would be.

They prelates reminded lay persons of their duty to actively participate in political processes and to ensure the gains of the Constitution “will be preserved and enhanced, instead of being removed”.

One way of doing this, they said, is by closely watching over those that are tasked to draft or overhaul the Constitution.

“The process of amending the Constitution should not be left to politicians or to those who either by election or appointment will be tasked to draft the amendments,” Villegas said.

The Duterte administration is dead-set on amending the Charter, particularly towards shifting from a presidential to a federal system of government.

Citing cost efficiency, Duterte’s preferred mode of amending the Constitution is through a constituent assembly.

“There is a the big issue of federalism which we must all study,” added the bishops.

“Do we need to change from our present unitary system to a federal system of government? Or will it suffice to introduce amendments and laws which will make the present unitary system responsive to the needs of disadvantaged regions?”

“Keep in mind that the drafting of a Constitution and amendments to it should concern all of us,” they said. “Let us not fail our country. Even more importantly, let us not fail our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)

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