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Politicans rapped for amending term limits

MANILA (UCAN): Circumventing the limits to terms of office established by the constitution “would be a grave moral wrong and a tremendous injustice,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said in a pastoral statement in mid-January in which he protested the decision of the Philippine Congress to amend the constitution to extend the terms of office of elected officials.
 
Archbishop Villegas, the former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said it was it morally objectionable to rewrite the law as a pretext for extending the terms of office of politicians, the archbishop warned that there are elected officials who have declared that the extension of their terms of office is “inevitable and necessary.”
 
Church leaders “are not unaware that reconfiguring the government may be used by the unprincipled as a pretext for the extension of their terms of office,” he said.
 
In the pastoral statement, Pastoral Moral Guidelines for Our Catholic Faithful, Archbishop Villegas said the Church finds the move to be “opportunist and downright morally objectionable.”
 
He said, “It is our moral position that if the outcome is to be a credible draft of a new constitution, then the authors who draft the future fundamental charter of the land must be known for their probity and their intellectual acumen.” 
 
He said those who must rewrite the constitution, if it is necessary, should be “free of vested interests that may render suspect their handiwork.”
 
Archbishop Villegas also reminded Catholics of their Christian duty as citizens to know the issues. “It is an obligation of believers to make choices for what is truly just, socially equitable and empowering,” he said.
 
A shift from a unitary to federal form of government was one of the election campaign promises made by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, in 2016, claiming he needed to reconfigure the system to give autonomy to the regions.
 
Duterte has issued an order creating a 25-member body that will review the constitution and submit recommendations to Congress. He said he has yet to name the members.
 
In early January, congressional leaders announced that they were set to convene as a constituent assembly to make amendments to the charter.
 
Advocacy groups, however, opposed the proposed charter change, calling it an attempt by Duterte to impose a dictatorship.
 
Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the leftist group Bayan, said the proposed constitutional amendments will only “isolate and disenfranchise” the people and give the president “unrestrained powers.”
 
He said, “Duterte would have both executive and legislative powers during the period before a federal congress can convene.” He said it was exactly what the late dictator and president, Ferdinand Marcos, did when he made changes to the constitution in 1973.
 
Nardy Sabino, of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said the establishment of federal states would only serve the interest of political dynasties and aristocrats.
 
“Federalism will not give the power to the people. It will allow political families in the regions to rule and have their own kingdoms and territories,” he said.

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