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Who’s initiative?

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A paid primetime television advertisement on January 9 which blamed the country’s problems on the supposed shortcomings of the 1987 Constitution and pushing for amendments to it has been slammed as attempting to mislead Filipinos that the Charter was obstructing the nation’s progress.

The ad, which ran nearly for a minute on primetime TV, showed Filipinos “frozen” in the classroom, in the market and office, a metaphor for how progress had stopped. In one segment, a barrier with the sign “Global investors not allowed” comes down, alluding to constitutional limits on foreign ownership of real property and certain industries.

Opposition politicians and survivors of the martial law rule of President Marcos’ father and namesake also strongly denounced the TV ad’s use of the catchphrase “Edsa-pwera” – a play on the Spanish term “echa fuera,” which means to throw out – to insinuate that the Constitution had cast aside ordinary Filipinos after the 1986 Edsa Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

The lengthy primetime TV ad reveals generous funding for the campaign for a renewed effort to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative, which labor groups have urged Filipinos to reject as they say it diverts attention away from pressing gut issues.

“Our primary concerns are higher wages, job security, and the freedom to organize for collective bargaining,” said Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula. “Instead of focusing on these pressing issues, the Charter change initiative diverts attention and resources to a cause that does not serve the majority,” he added.

Partido Manggagawa chair Renato Magtubo said that they never heard a clamor for Charter Change from the grassroots. What he is certain of is the initiative is an organized campaign orchestrated from the higher echelons of power.  “If they can easily purchase a new Constitution via people’s initiative, then what will prevent them from making another purchase to perpetuate themselves in power,” he said, referring to reports that each of those who would sign a petition for people’s initiative are allegedly paid a certain sum.

The expensive primetime TV ad and reports of vote buying for charter change are signs that the people behind it are likely ready and willing to spend, which means they must be expecting something in return. This is something we Filipinos will have to keep in mind when the issue of charter change or a people’s initiative comes up, because based on the record of the so-called representatives we’ve been selling our votes to, their selfish interests are always head and shoulders above ours.*

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