On July 27, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address to a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives: two of our legislative bodies that are controlled by a super majority that have served whatever the President wishes them to do. The list of actions by the Senate and the House of Representatives, who obey the President’s bidding despite popular opinion, is mounting and steadily eroding the fabric of our already very fragile democracy.
The tyranny of numbers, especially in the House of Representatives, has allowed the declaration of martial law in Mindanao for three years; the Bill allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of public utilities; the denial of the franchise of ABS-CBN. Both houses passed the Anti-Terrorism Act and gave emergency powers to the President to combat Covid-19.
The Duterte administration has flouted international human rights obligations and continued its war on drugs and violations against human rights defenders including church people, despite widespread global condemnation. It ignored the country’s territorial claim against China of the West Philippine Sea. It has dragged its feet in implementing free mass testing and relied on a militarist solution of lockdowns.
And on Monday, another unpopular measure, Charter Change, will be tackled by Congress anew. It is being pushed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) amidst the fact that the number of those infected with Covid-19 continue to rise. As various surveys would attest, there is no clamor for Charter Change, yet it is being pushed again for the umpteenth time. Self-serving measures, such as extension of term limits, are more pressing to the lawmakers than facing the growing number of Covid-19 cases, its dire impact on the capacity of our health care system and the massive hunger and unemployment it has caused.
Those who have been elected to shepherd and care for our people and national interest have become the very shepherds that are condemned in the Bible as those who exploit the sheep for their own gain and care nothing for their sheep’s interests (Ezek. 34). They are condemned in Scriptures, as those who accumulate the prestige and wealth of high office through injustice and unrighteousness. As prophet Jeremiah states: “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice ...” (22:13).
The NCCP calls on the government to stop this effort to tamper with our Constitution. There are more pressing matters to attend to, like ensuring mass testing and other scientific measures to contain the spread of the virus and providing social safety nets against the economic crisis. We will continue to pray for our nation, exhort our churches to journey with the people for whom Christ gave his very life, and seek through service and witness Christ’s promise of life abundant for all people (John 10:10).