By Raymund Antonio
Church leaders and key opposition figures gathered at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City to join a mass and procession on Sunday to oppose Charter change.
Vice President Leni Robredo, who accepted the call to lead and unite the opposition, attended the mass spearheaded by the Purple Cross Movement, a laity-led organization.
Robredo is not in favor of the shift to a federal form of government, calling Cha-cha “untimely,” given the current problems facing the country such as poverty and rising consumer prices, of which it might not be a solution.
The gathering took place a day before President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address, with his other vocal critics coming in droves to join the event.
Opposition Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Risa Hontiveros, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV were among those in attendance at the mass.
They were seen together with other party mates of Robredo at the Liberal Party, which she chairs, among them were party vice president for external affairs Erin Tañada, and congressmen Miro Quimbo, Kit Belmonte and Bolet Banal.
Speaking to media ahead of the mass, Aquino said efforts to postpone the 2019 elections as part of Cha-cha could lead to the erosion of the country’s democracy.
“Ang eleksyon ang haligi ng demokrasya. Kapag binuwag mo iyan, mabubuwag ang bayan natin,” he said.
The senator said he hoped Duterte will address the problems of high prices of goods in his SONA instead of pushing for Charter change.
Like Robredo, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Cha-cha, particularly federalism, might not be the right solution to the country’s problems.
To drive home his point during the mass, Pabillo said in his homily that Duterte should tell the true condition of the Filipino people.
“Sa kalagayan natin ngayon, ano kaya ang tugon ng pamahalaan? Gusto po nating marinig ang kanilang sagot,” he said.
“Sigurado ako ang tugon hindi Cha-cha. Ang sagot ay hindi federalismo…Hindi naman gaganda ang buhay kasi binago ang Konstitusyon,” Pabillo said.
“Ang dapat na tugon ng isang lider ay handa siyang isakripisyo ang kanyang sarili,” the prelate stressed.
Pabillo presided the mass, which was concelebrated by Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilo David. A vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), David has been vocal against the drug-related killings under the Duterte administration.
Activist priest Robert Reyes, Fr. Flavie Villanueva of St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center and Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, were present.
Joining them were former Education Secretary Armin Luistro, former presidential peace adviser Ging Deles, ex-Commission on Human Rights Chair Etta Rosales, and sisters Mary John Manansan and Patricia Fox.
Reyes said government has no right to toy with the country’s democracy and the freedom of the Filipino people.
The mass was capped by the ringing of bells, followed by an ecumenical procession of anti-Cha-cha forces from the church to Quezon Hall to dramatize their protest against the shift to federalism.
Senators Francis Pangilinan and Trillanes led the procession, together with other participants who carried purple crosses to symbolize the “hardships of the Filipino people” under the Duterte administration.