UP sectoral regents launch coalition vs Cha-cha

A day before the 38th anniversary of the People Power Revolution, sectoral regents of the University of the Philippines (UP) System led the launching of the UP Against Charter Change (UPACC) coalition to oppose amending the 1987 Constitution under the Marcos Jr. administration.

In a press conference at Quezon Hall on Saturday, Feb. 24, the UP student, faculty and staff regents introduced UPACC as “a system-wide and multi-sectoral campaign center” to mobilize members of the UP community.

UP Student Regent Iya Trinidad emphasized that UPACC was established because multiple constituents of the university have expressed their disapproval of renewed efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution.

As early as December 2023, signature drives masking as “people’s initiative” have been reported in various communities nationwide. Allegedly, some signature-gathering campaigns also involved bribes and were deceptively packaged as aid distribution.

Under the Constitution itself, there are only three ways to amend the highest law of the land: through a constitutional convention, a constituent assembly and the people’s initiative.

Under the people’s initiative, amendments may be proposed upon a petition of at least 12% of the total registered voters, with every legislative district represented by at least 3% of its total registered voters.

Foreign ownership

Among the most contentious issue of Charter Change are proposed amendments of “economic provisions,” which are directed towards expanding the ownership rights of foreign businesses in the country.

In a joint statement released on Feb. 2, the three sectoral regents of UP said there are no “empirical basis” that foreign investments lead to economic development in the absence of a strong nationalist framework.

Similarly, the 55th convention of the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) last August 2023 also passed a resolution expressing their opposition to Charter Change under the “US-Marcos II” regime.

“[T]he amendment that allows 100% foreign ownership and development of alienated land, public utilities and services … will grant foreign investors and imperialist powers more access to the Philippines’ natural resources and allow them to further exploit it,” the resolution reads.

Apart from public utilities, the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6  (RBH 6) proposed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri also seeks to address the restrictions on foreign ownership in the advertising and education sector.

The GASC further slammed the amendments, arguing that foreign ownership of educational institutions would only exacerbate the colonial perceptions of Filipinos and the neoliberal system of education in the country.

UP Faculty Regent Carl Ramota highlighted in the press conference that an increase in foreign ownership and control would only make quality education more exclusive and inaccessible.

Ramota also emphasized that the government should instead focus on implementing reforms in the education sector rather than the constitution.

“Ito ‘yung nakikita natin solusyon sa krisis sa edukasyon sa bansa. Hindi yung pagbabago ng ating saligang batas. Hindi yung pagpasok ng dayuhang kontrol at pagmamay-ari sa sektor ng edukasyon,” he said.

Meanwhile, Staff Regent Donna Alambra also asserted in a statement that favoring foreign investment will put Filipino local and small businesses at a disadvantage.

“The inclusive development of a country comes from within and not outside of countries,” she added. 

Term Extensions

Apart from economic provisions, the coalition also cautioned that Charter Change may be exploited to advance the political interests of those in power.

“[B]eneath the smokescreen of economic Cha-cha is a political motive that has also been apparent in the past and present incarnations of attempts at charter amendments,” the sectoral regents’ joint statement reads.

In 2018, Duterte’s push for federalism and Charter Change was also met with strong opposition as it could extend his term until 2030.

Among the speakers at the launching of UPACC were UP Diliman University Student Council National College of Public Administration and Governance Rep. Franz Beltran, UP Solidaridad Executive Vice Chairperson Justin Daduya, and UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council Philosophy Rep. Clarissa Guilliana Odra.