Business groups blast Con-ass

MANILA - Even the supposed beneficiary of the initiative to change the Constitution —the business sector —is joining the chorus against the Senate-less constituent assembly (Con-ass).

In a joint statement, three business groups (Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, and Financial Executives Institutes of the Philippines) and two advocacy groups (Action for Economic Reforms and Foundation for Economic Freedom) said they are "appalled at the indecency and blatant disregard of the Filipino people's will" in the hasty approval of the House Resolution No. 1109 last week.

HB 1109 allows just the members of the Lower House to convene as a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution without the Senate.

"For whose interest was this action taken? Certainly not the Filipino people’s, as there is no widespread clamor to amend the Constitution, especially now that we are less than a year away from a presidential election. The resolution contains no issue of profound impact to the people’s welfare," the groups wrote.

"By this action of pro-Administration congresspersons, any remaining doubts about the determination of the Arroyo Administration and its allies in the House to manipulate our democratic processes and institutions to prolong their hold on power have been erased."

The groups also said they are doubting the Arroyo administration's pronouncements that national elections will proceed as planned in 2010. "But unless its avowals are backed by President Arroyo’s clear and unequivocal rejection of her Congressional allies’ maneuverings and an explicit commitment that presidential elections will be held next year, Malacañang’s declarations amount to nothing but more subterfuge and double talk."

In a phone interview last week, even the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is widely considered an administration ally, did not agree with the passing of the Con-ass. PCCI president Edgardo Lacson said, "[The passage of Con-ass] is bad timing. We are in a brink of a recession, and the Con-ass is just a big distraction."

Lacson said the legislators had asked consulted them before on the economic provisions of the Constitution. "Whatever the mode [of changing the Constitution], business will just go along for as long as the exercise is legal. The Philippines is still under a bicameral system, which means Senate must have a say [in changing the Constitution]."

"We don't question the wisdom of the proponents. But this is a divisive and polarizing exercise," Lacson concluded.


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