Coalition formed to fight 'worst Cha-cha ever'

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Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and lawyer Christian Monsod (second and third from right, respectively) lead the "No to Cha-cha Coalition" (Photo courtesy: David Santos)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — As supporters of President Duterte aggressively push for charter change (cha-cha) to prepare the shift to federalism, can those critical of the initiative be far behind?

Cause-oriented groups, including leaders from the academe and religious sectors are once again coming together to take a united stand against the "worst cha-cha ever."

The "No to Chacha Coalition" is formally launched on Tuesday at the Malcolm Hall of the University of the Philippine's College of Law.

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. and lawyer Christian Monsod, both framers of the 1987 Constitution, are leading the alliance.

Related: Davide opposes charter change, warns federalism would be a 'leap to hell'

Both Davide and Monsod are among the vocal critics of the present congress' proposals to amend the constitution and shift to federal government.

There are at least three pending proposals: Resolution No. 8 of both houses, which was filed on August 2016, the PDP-Laban proposed federal constitution; and the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

'Worst cha-cha ever'

Forum speakers, including former congressman Lorenzo Tañada III, point out that almost all of the administrations that came after former President Cory Aquino attempted but failed to amend the constitution.

"This is the worst cha-cha ever," human rights lawyer and former congressman Neri Colmenares said, referring to the initiative of the Duterte administration's super-majority Congress.

Colmenares added that the latest cha-cha move not only "centralizes repressive powers" of the President, but also "constitutionalizes the self-serving agenda of politicians" who he says are "riding into the popularity" of Duterte.

According to Colmenares, one proposed provision seeks to grant the President oversight powers "over all branches of government."

"Never heard itong presidential oversight. This is an invention," Colmenares explains while speaking to a jampacked Malcom Hall, composed mostly by members of progressive groups and students.

[Translation: This presidential oversight power has never been heard before. This is an invention.]

"'Pag meron siya nito, he will be the most powerful and the most intimidating president ever, kahambing na lang siguro ni (former President Ferdinand) Marcos," he added.

[Translation: If he has this, he will be the most powerful and the most intimidating president ever, perhaps like Marcos.]

Colmenares also lashed out at cha-cha proponents for "inserting pork barrel" by proposing a provision allocating districts "annual share of the state and federal budgets," effectively "skirting (the Supreme Court) decision" to prohibit it.

The coalition will hold public forums and mass mobilizations, engage netizens on social media and explore legal action to oppose the latest cha-cha which they say is "self-serving, undemocratic and unpatriotic."

The "No to Cha-cha Coalition" will hold a rally on February 24, to coincide with the 32nd year of the EDSA People Power uprising.