Women’s group opposes Charter Change, calls for prioritizing social services, welfare, and women’s health

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) reiterates its opposition to the latest attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution amidst the escalating economic crises in the Philippines and globally. In recent weeks, top political figures, including Rep. Martin Romualdez, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s cousin, have once again intensified efforts to push for charter change. 

The women’s group believes that recent strategies employed by charter change proponents such as sponsored television advertisements, signature campaigns, and petitions are mere attempts to create the illusion of popular support for charter change. In reality, these are just tactics used to push the agenda of those in power. 

The proposed charter change aims to push for provisions to liberalize the economy further and open the country to foreign investments under the guise of economic development and prosperity. Notably, Senate President Miguel Zubiri reiterated in a press conference that their charter change review will be on the basis of liberalization policies in the Public Service Act to allow foreign ownership of public services.

Contrary to addressing the multitude of economic problems the Filipino people are subjected to,

further opening up the country’s resources to foreign control contradicts rural development and building national industries. These are critical steps to respond to the chronic crisis of hunger and unemployment. CWR stresses the need to tackle the root causes of economic and social crisis, cautioning against using constitutional reforms to allow foreign investors to exploit the country’s resources. 

CWR also flags the significant increase in the budget allocation of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from ₱2.2 billion to ₱14 billion, earmarked for conducting and supervising elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites. This is a far cry from its usual appropriation in the last five years – ₱2.2 billion in 2023 and 2022, ₱2.1 billion in 2021, and ₱1.9 billion in 2020 and 2019. 

The group raises its concern on the increased budget while noting that allocation for social protection such as direct health services and for addressing the well-being and welfare of the most vulnerable members of our society remain insufficient. 

In 2023, only ₱296.3 billion was allocated for the Department of Health’s budget, with 33.8% dedicated to PhilHealth, thus, private households still cover the majority of health expenses, with 41.5% being out-of-pocket expenditures. CWR notes that these funds, if reallocated, can be spent on HPV vaccines for 1.2 million young women and breast cancer screenings for 6.3 million women, which can reduce out of pocket expenses for women and their families.

Furthermore, it is apparent that the push for charter change not only aims at economic revisions but to facilitate the extension of possible term limits, allowing the ruling clique and political dynasties to expand their authority and remain in power – very on-brand Marcosian tactics.

CWR urges the Filipino people to remain vigilant and unite against attempts to further liberalize the Philippine economy through constitutional change, and to be wary of attempts of those in power to perpetuate their authority. Alongside this, Filipino people must unite to call for genuine economic change, emphasizing a shift to building national industries, creating decent jobs with livable wages, and providing social welfare to Filipino women and people. #

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