Con-Ass Rally
Thousands gather at the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas in Makati City yesterday against moves by the House of Representatives to convene a constituent assembly. Jonjon Vicencio (
As darkness descends upon the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, the massive gathering of protesters from all walks begin to disperse into the shadows of their fears. The people had come to protest the imminence of Charter change. As they had come peacefully, so did they leave. But for a while there, the central business district in Makati stood still. EDWIN BACASMAS (


Cory issues strongest message vs Con-ass

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:37:00 06/11/2009

MANILA, Philippines—It was the strongest message former President Corazon Aquino has so far issued, and it was roundly applauded in the largest rally against moves to revise the Constitution in three years.

Here we are again in the midst of the shameful abuses of the powerful that seek to destroy our sacred laws, she said in Filipino (“Subalit narito muli tayo, sa gitna ng walang-hiyang pang-aabuso ng mga makapangyarihang nagnanais na sirain ang mga pinakayakap sa ating mga batas.”)

“Over the years, I have learned to endure pain and sadness,” said the cancer-stricken People Power icon in a statement read by her grandson Kiko Dee at the rally attended by thousands in Makati City Wednesday.

“But perhaps, there is nothing that causes me greater pain than to see our people betrayed again and again by those they have elected to lead and serve them. To those of us who fought long and hard to restore our democracy, the pain deepens at the thought that all our gains have so quickly been eroded.”

Estimates of the crowd that gathered in the intersection of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue ranged from 5,200 by police to 13,000 by organizers of the multisectoral rally against an attempt by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies to convene a constituent assembly (Con-ass) and amend the Constitution. The Philippine Daily Inquirer put the crowd at 10,000.

Speaking in Filipino, Aquino said that when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was driven from power in 1986, “didn’t we vow that we will never again allow to throw away our freedom?”

Aquino said this was not the leadership that Filipinos deserve or the society that should be handed down to the next generation. She called on Filipinos to demonstrate their protest against moves to amend the Constitution.

Stealing presidency for 3rd time

A message from former President Joseph Estrada, read by his son, San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, said: “If we allow her minions to maneuver (Con-ass), it is like allowing her to steal the presidency for the third time.”

Estrada was referring to his ouster in 2001 and the 2004 presidential election allegedly stolen by Ms Arroyo.

Opening salvo

Thousands bearing placards saying “No to Cha-cha” marched on the Makati business center in what organizers described as just the “opening salvo” of bigger and louder protests across the country against Charter change.

The demonstrators—an assembly of political figures, church leaders and leftist groups—were one in dismissing Malacañang’s position that the President had nothing to do with House Resolution No. 1109 that seeks to amend the Constitution without the Senate.
“All my life I haven’t cursed anyone, but now I call on the spirits of the babaylans, prophets, and heroes (to) curse this evil in government,” Sr. Mary Mananzan, of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, told the crowd. “We don’t want Gloria in whatever title she may hold.”

Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said Ms Arroyo could run for Congress next year so long as she would keep her hands off the Constitution.

“She has no mandate to fiddle with the Constitution,” he said, adding that it was “time to pack her bags.”

“It is very clear that the people don’t want Con-ass. This is not the priority,” Roxas said.

Fair warning

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said it was “impossible” that Malacañang’s allies in the House of Representatives cooked up HR 1109 without Ms Arroyo’s blessings.

“Majority in the House is on her side, if not in her pocket,” he said. “They’re only as good as the benefits they get.”

Gabriela party-list Rep Liza Maza said the rally should serve as a fair warning to Ms Arroyo “not to anger the people even more.”

“This is the start of the backlash from the people,” said Akbayan party-list Rep Risa Hontiveros.

Different displays of discontent

The show of dismay over HR 1109 came in different forms during the rally.

Protesters prepared what they called a “Gloria punching bag” to illustrate their anger over the Con-ass resolution.

The ’90s band Datu’s Tribe played a song that urged the crowd to “condemn pigs,” ostensibly referring to congressmen who voted for HR 1109.

The protesters presented on a giant screen a video mosaic of congressmen who voted for HR 1109. In the piece titled “Mga Palaka ni Gloria (Gloria’s Toadies),” the congressmen’s photos later morphed into a huge portrait of the President.

After three hours, the crowd dispersed peacefully, ending the biggest rally against Charter change since more than 15,000 massed at Manila’s Quirino Grandstand in December 2006.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo vowed, “We will stall them until we paralyze Con-ass.”

Sen. Loren Legarda said HR 1109 was “clearly a violation of the Constitution” because it eased the Senate out of the equation.

Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr., hitherto a rabid proponent of Charter change, said the resolution was meant to extend Ms Arroyo’s stay in power so she could be either president or prime minister “for life.”

“She’s flaunting her defiance of public opinion,” he said.

Exit options

Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio said speculation that Ms Arroyo was running for a congressional seat in her Lubao hometown could be one of her “exit options,” explaining that it indicated she was aiming to become a prime minister in a parliamentary system.

He said that the President was aware that she would be facing prosecution for corruption once her term was over.

Grace Poe, daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr. who lost the 2004 presidential vote, appealed to lawmakers’ conscience: “Do you still have a God or you worship only money?”

“People are fed up,” said Ayala group official Vicky Garchitorena, who marched together with members of the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) group. “This is [our] way of expressing their outrage already at what Congress has been doing.”

Former Trade Secretary. Juan Santos said: “Why hasn’t she declared that she’s definitely stepping down? It has to be specific. Why doesn’t she say specifically that she’s against Cha-cha and House Resolution 1109?”

Soldiers are watching

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon warned: “The soldiers are watching what’s happening in the streets. If this reaches the level of EDSA II, you can’t be sure that they would not come out.”

He voiced fears that while two previous military-backed popular revolts in 1986 and 2001 succeeded and civilian power was restored, this time around that might not happen.

“They were hoping that there would be good governance but that did not happen so this time they might ask ‘Why should we give back the power? I am afraid of that,’” said Biazon, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In a statement read by his wife Aloi, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, who is incarcerated on rebellion charges, said that soldiers had “no obligation to support the administration in committing illegal acts.”

Lim said that the Arroyo administration “has lost all sense of shame.”

He urged the military: “You know what is right. You know what is just. I trust that you can see the truth should the time call for protecting the people.”

Magdalo members said 150 of them were in the rally, along with an unspecified number of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, but they did not say if there were active servicemen among them.

Jerome Layug, the 21-year-old brother of detained Magdalo rebel James Layug, came to the rally together with his mother.

“This administration wants to change the Constitution and stay in power. We cannot allow that,” Jerome Layug said. With reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Allison W. Lopez, Daxim L. Lucas, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.