About 200 mostly students joined an interfaith rally Friday, June 19, 2009 in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to protest moves by allies of President Gloria Arroyo in Congress to change the Constitution. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco and Jonathan Deles)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 19, 2009) – About 200 mostly students joined an interfaith rally Friday in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines to protest moves by allies of President Gloria Arroyo in Congress to change the Constitution.
The rally, which lasted several hours, was held at a public square called Plaza Pershing in downtown Zamboanga. Security was tight around the plaza, which was previously bombed by rebels. Soldiers and policemen were deployed around the area.
Political activists have been holding street protests in Mindanao and denouncing the proposed amendments to the Constitution.
Militant groups and other people’s organizations, including opposition politicians, have criticized the passage early month of the House Resolution 1109, which seeks to turn Congress into a Constitutional Assembly, paving the way for changes to the Constitution.
Protesters previously held rallies outside the congressional office in Davao City and house in Manila of Speaker Prospero Nograles, a key ally of Arroyo.
“There is nothing more obvious than the actions made by Malacañang, through its allied congressmen, to cart off the barriers to cha-cha’s realization. The passage of HR 1109 speaks for their intentions to railroad charter change before the 2010 national elections and maintain Gloria Arroyo’s top post as prime minister,” said John Birondo, a Bayan spokesman.
Birondo urged the public to stay vigilant and oppose changes in the Constitution which could extend Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.
Arroyo is to step down next year when her term ends, but her allies in Congress are campaigning to amend the Constitution.
Activist said amending the Constitution would eventually prolong Arroyo's stay in power. Nograles said the change in the Constitution is needed to introduce reforms in the economy, among others and not to extend Arroyo’s terms.
Under the presidential form of government, Arroyo is allowed only one six-year term. In the charter change proposal suggested by her political allies who dominate Congress, she can be elected as prime minister should Congress dissolve the Senate and change the system of government to parliamentary and eventually prolong her into power beyond 2010.
Arroyo deposed President Joseph Estrada in a people power revolution in 2001, but corruption scandals in her government and allegations of poll fraud has made her extremely unpopular among Filipinos. (With reports from Jung Francisco and Jonathan Deles)