• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

Charter change worsens national oppression of indigenous peoples

January 23, 2018

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) denounces the Duterte government’s Charter change supposedly “to pave way to federalism.” It is a deceptive and dangerous draconian measure leading to a fascist dictatorship and the complete sell out of Philippine economy and patrimony to foreign corporations, which will only worsen the plight of the Filipino masses, especially the marginalized indigenous peoples.

The proposed Charter amendments as contained in the Resolution of Both Houses No. 8 (RBH No. 8) and the PDP-Laban proposal will bestow formidable powers to President Duterte during a transition period, whereby the Congress will be dissolved and during which Duterte will exercise both executive and legislative powers. Worse, there is no guarantee up to when the transition period will last. It will also extend the terms of office of the President, Congressmen and Senators. Charter change attacks human rights, civil liberties and national sovereignty. The sovereign power of the people will be limited to elections. It will also curtail the freedom of expression, weaken human rights and peoples’ rights, and opens up the country to foreign military bases.

Charter change also aims to remove the “protectionist” economic provisions enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. The proposed amendments will allow 100% foreign ownership of lands including agricultural lands and allow 100% foreign owned corporations to exploit our natural resources, which are prohibited under the current Constitution. Strategic enterprises, including public utilities, mass media and educational institutions will also be allowed 100% foreign ownership and control.

Charter change completely disregards indigenous peoples’ rights to our ancestral lands and self determination. It enhances the plunder of our ancestral lands, boosts Duterte’s tyranny and heightens the national oppression of indigenous peoples, with impunity. It will allow even more mining, dams and other energy projects in the Cordillera towards the total destruction of our remaining forests, rivers and ecosystems, which the Igorots have nurtured and protected since time immemorial. The numerous mining applications covering more than 60% of the region’s land area and the more than 100 energy projects, mostly by foreign transnational corporations and their local subsidiaries, will lead to our ethnocide if unhindered. Already marginalized, access to education and other basic social services will become more difficult due to their rising costs caused by private ownership and control.

Charter change will also worsen human rights violations with impunity under the dictatorship of President Duterte. In the Cordillera, since Duterte assumed the presidency in July 2016, indigenous communities, human rights defenders, environmental activists, and CPA leaders and members fell victims of various forms of human rights violations, including fabricated court charges, illegal searches, arrests and detention, political vilification, harassment, intimidation, forced evacuation, bombings, and sustained surveillance under the US-Duterte regime’s All Out War, crackdown against progressive organizations, Oplan Kapayapaan and counter-insurgency operations.

CPA also believes that Charter change through a Constituent Assembly to fast track the process is self-serving to the super majority in Congress who are supporters of Duterte. The possibility of cancelling the 2019 elections will extend the terms of elected officials. Proposals on term extension also state that Duterte may be re-elected for a 5-year term under the new Constitution. These will pave way to prolonged attacks against the people, development aggression in indigenous territories, human rights violations, and further entrenchment of political dynasties and reign of warlords.

Charter change and the proposed “federal” system of government are not the urgent solutions to the violations to our ancestral land rights and the plunder of our territories. These only lead to fascist dictatorship, concentration of economic and political power with the ruling elite, further bureaucratic corruption and impoverishment of the people.

We call on the Cordillera congressmen and our fellow Igorots and indigenous peoples to oppose Charter change and defend our rights as indigenous peoples to our ancestral lands and resources against plunder by the State and corporations, stand for human rights, and defend Philippine sovereignty.#

Bestang Dekdekan
Secretary General