Watchdogs slam proposed Charter Change as 'anti-poor'

MANILA, Philippines – A coalition of watchdogs denounced the proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution, calling it "anti-poor."

In a joint statement, watchdogs Kaya Natin; Workers Against Tyranny, Corruption, and Human Rights Violations; Urban Poor Action Committee; Council of the Laity of the Philippines; and Pakisama said that Charter Change (Cha-Cha) leading to federalism would only empower political dynasties.

"Charot (What a joke)! That's our response to the double-faced Charter Change which is supposedly for the poor but will only worsen everyone's condition – especially those in the margins, under political dynasties who will be empowered by the proposed shift to federalism," the ChaCharot coalition said in Filipino on Monday, February 19.

ChaCharot is wordplay for Cha-Cha and charot, Filipino slang for "joke" or "just kidding." The coalition finds the proposed constitutional amendment a "joke."

"Even if we change our type of government, if we are ruled by the same political dynasties, we are not assured of a solution to this type of cancer in society – political dynasties are the cancer," the coalition said.

They also questioned the motives of government officials pushing for Cha-Cha.

"If the proponents of Cha-Cha are those who do not respect human rights, women, and are corrupt, there is no basis to the promise of good life in the Philippines," they said.

The coalition urged the Duterte administration to instead strengthen the Local Government Code to boost rural development and fiscal autonomy.

"Laws can be legislated and be passed to spread government funds to areas far from Manila," ChaCharot said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been pushing for a shift to federalism since the 2016 campaign period. With the aid of his allies in Congress, the process of constitutional amendment has begun. (READ: What you need to know about Charter Change)

Experts have said that federalism could be key to solving economic problems in the country but may not necessarily boost regional development due to political dynasties. (READ: Will federalism address PH woes? Pros and cons of making the shift)

Back in January, Senator Ralph Recto said increasing local government funds can be done through ordinary legislation, without pushing for Cha-Cha. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.