Charter Change (Chacha) Explainer: Must Know Facts for Filipinos in the Diaspora

Charter Change (Chacha) Explainer: Must Know Facts for Filipinos in the Diaspora

President Marcos Jr. is pushing for Charter Change.

Charter change or “Chacha” is not new to the Filipino people. Past administrations have also tried and failed to enact some form of it during their terms. Chacha is the process of amending the Philippine constitution in various aspects, including, but not limited to, the structure of the government, economic provisions, and government term limits. Constitutional reform (proposed amendments that aim to fundamentally reshape the governmental framework outlined in the nation's charter) is the basic goal of Chacha.

This worries the masses of the Filipino people, especially since the last time the constitution was changed was when his father, former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., used Chacha to lengthen his term as president, which in turn resulted in numerous human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, and various forms of corruption. When the EDSA People Power successfully ousted Marcos Sr. from power, the Philippine constitution was amended into its current version, the 1987 constitution

Since then, the following administrations have proposed different variations of Chacha during their terms. Fidel Ramos wanted Chacha to lift term limits of government officials which was unsuccessful due to massive protest led by the Catholic Church. Following him, Joseph Estrada proposed an economic Chacha in order to allow more foreign direct investments in the country but failed due to huge public opposition and his corruption scandals. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her term has then made several attempts to change the constitution as she wanted to change the current presidential government with a bicameral congress into a unicameral parliamentary government system into a  parliamentary-federal government system. During the Benigno Aquino III administration, several proposals of Chacha were raised by different members of the House of Representatives which included changes in the form of government as well as economic liberalization. Finally, Rodrigo Duterte made big talk of federalism during his campaign for presidency which would require the amendment of the constitution in order to push through. 

Photo by IBON Foundation via League of Filipino Students - UP Diliman

Most recently, Marcos Jr. is now pushing for Chacha during his term, first through the passing of Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 which will give Congress the power to enact bills that can raise foreign direct ownerships of public utilities, educational institutions, and advertising industry to up to 100%. Currently, the constitution states that the majority of the shares of the companies, businesses, and other institutions in the Philippines should be owned by Filipinos. This will change under the newly proposed Chacha. This can mean that big foreign monopolies can use and abuse our resources for their own gain.

President Marcos Jr. assures that his administration will only focus on economic charter change, but the people are wary. People speculate that he, just as his father did before him, use Chacha to lift term limits and maintain his political power for an indefinite period of time. He says this will benefit the economy of the country, create more jobs and higher wages, and lower prices of commodities, but will it really? 

What is the effect of Chacha on livelihood and wage?

With bigger capital and more advanced technologies, 100% foreign direct ownership of the above-mentioned sectors will only allow major corporations in the above-mentioned sectors to swallow smaller Filipino-owned companies, reduce their competition, and finally control the prices of their services and products, which will further worsen the status of commodity prices in the Philippines. They will also have control over resources in the Philippines, damaging our natural resources in the guise of “research” and “development.”

To encourage more foreign companies to bring their businesses to the Philippines, lowering Filipino workers' wages is key. In the interest of gaining the most possible profit, foreign ownership will also negatively affect workers' rights to a livable wage, to organize, to security of tenure, and to safe workplaces. Therefore, Chacha will not provide higher wages and better opportunities for working Filipinos. Migrant groups also foresee that this can “drive Filipinos to seek opportunities overseas.”

What is the effect of Chacha on culture?

With foreign ownership of the advertising industry, Chacha will slowly and surely shape and dictate the way of thinking of Filipino youth and masses. It will encourage backwards and anti-nationalist ideals. It will not encourage Filipinos youth to work in the Philippines nor will it encourage supporting local businesses and products.

Teacher groups also fear that Marcos Jr. and his political partners can also use the ownership of educational institutions to foreign investors as leverage in order to revise history and bury the brutal history of his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and other cruelties of the ruling class. Historical revisionism is dangerous because it is the tool of the oppressors in order to keep their status. It is their tool to keep the masses compliant and docile. 

What are the calls of the Filipino people and long-term solution to the crises of Philippine society?

President Marcos Jr.’s Chacha must be exposed to what it really is: a resolution to gain more economic and political power and not a service to the Filipino people. It will only serve the interests of those in power, the complicit big foreign corporations, and imperialist countries and will further worsen the crises faced by Filipinos. 

What will serve the interest of the Filipino people is true national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform, protection of our natural resources while ensuring sustainable development, recognizing our democratic rights, and independent foreign policy. 

National industrialization would mean that the Philippines can create products and services (such as different factory machinery to food items and other basic necessities) that would allow the country to be self-sufficient. The Philippines would not keep exporting raw materials and resources while importing fully made products and goods. This requires genuine agrarian reform and protection of our natural resources as well as policies that allow independence from foreign intervention. 

We must amplify the call to reject Chacha because we know that it will not provide the needs of the Filipino people! We must call for just wage increase, policies to alleviate the rising prices of products, and independence from foreign control!

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