ON CHARTER CHANGE AND THE COMMON GOOD
(A Pastoral Exhortation)
From the moral standpoint, we, your Bishops, continue to express our concern over the kind of democracy that we are practicing, whether this leads us to attain the common good. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:
"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate." (Centessimus Annus, #46)
Charter Change, changing our Constitution, is such a serious matter for the entire country, because it will determine the future of our people. Thus we must make the widest consultation on it for adequate information, discussion and education. That is why we disagree with the so-called "people's initiative" which appeared only as a "signature campaign" without focus on the real intention. The CBCP subscribes to the allegation that the "people's initiative" is an initiative of the ruling power, and not genuinely of the people. From the moral standpoint, it is clothed with suspicion. And so we ask: is it really for the people and the common good? We leave to our well-informed lawyers the legal arguments.
Holding a Constitutional Convention will be very expensive, as it will cost several billion pesos. But it is worth spending that much for something that is good for the greatest number. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than convening congressmen as a Constituent Assembly which is something that can easily become self-serving. The government has spent enormously to cheating and graft and corruption.
We maybe spending or losing much much more than that through government overspending and cheating and graft and corruption, which are very difficult to assess and account. If it is worth several billion pesos, it is worth spending in an honest way. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than the present powers-that-be, our Congress, making themselves a Constituent Assembly that can easily become self-serving.
It is said that the presidential form of government is a source of corruption among other things. We should ask a different question: Is it the presidential form that is the source of corruption, or the people in authority who corrupt and abuse the system? Any form of government will have its positive and negative characteristics; but the people who run the government are very crucial; they can either corrupt it or make it serve the common good. Any system or form of government in the hands of honest, just and incorruptible people will be a source of good for the governed. Will the parliamentary- unicameral form of government not be corrupted by the people who will create it?
It is in this light that we have made our position clear on Charter Change from the moral standpoint, and we reiterate it:
"Changing the Constitution, involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention." (CBCP, January 2006)
Heeding the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est that the Church "is called to contribute to the purification of reason" (# 29), we would like to ask these and similar questions to guide the discussion, discernment and debate on the charter change. Are you convinced that the Charter Change as presently presented by our governing politicians is really for the common good? Are you convinced that the "people's initiative" is genuinely the people's activity, and has its real source in the people? Do you want our legislators to convert themselves into a Constituent Assembly where they alone will rewrite our Constitution, and have it only approved by us in a plebiscite? Is it enough to say YES to Charter Change?
We are in a democracy. Should not then the citizenry be made to participate by electing their delegates to a Constitutional Convention?
These are the questions we would like our people in our dioceses and parishes to participate in answering regarding so serious a matter as Charter Change.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
September 14, 2006