Erap to lead fight vs Cha-cha

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FORMER President Joseph Estrada vowed to lead the masses in opposing Charter change if supporters of President Macapagal-Arroyo amend the Constitution to perpetuate themselves in power.

Estrada was reacting to the statement of El Shaddai leader Brother Mike Velarde that he will mobilize one million of his followers to stop Charter change.

The former leader lauded Velarde for speaking out against Cha-cha.

“I have always said that I will fight to the hilt any moves to change the Constitution,” Estrada said. “I will lead the people in the streets to make our voice heard if I have to even if they threaten to imprison me again. I have always maintained that my freedom is only secondary to the freedom of the Filipino people, including freedom from abuse by this administration.”

The United Opposition also welcomed Velarde’s statement and urged him to join their planned rally.

“We urge him to make good his threat and we welcome him to join our rally on December 12 at Makati,” UNO spokesman Adel Tamano said yesterday.

Tamano noted that “if there is one issue that cuts across all political and religious groups and unites the vast majority of Filipinos, it is our stand against GMA’s Cha-cha.”

”Bro. Mike, we look forward to seeing you on the 12th,” he said.

UNO National Capital Region chair and San Juan City Mayor JV Ejercito also lauded Velarde. “It is good Bro. Mike had spoken against Cha-cha and President Arroyo’s plan to extend her stay in power. We hope Mike Velarde will join the inter-faith rally with his one million supporters.” Ejercito said.

Religious, civil society and militant groups are planning an interfaith rally dubbed “Labanan ang Cha-cha ni Gloria” on Dec. 12 along Ayala Avenue.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, Jr. said any proposal to change the Constitution will be transparent and that it will be carried out in such a way that all concerned stakeholders especially the public will be properly informed and consulted.

He reiterated that any amendments will not extend the term of office of elected officials.

“We do not intend to extend the term of anybody,” Nograles said.

The Speaker likewise pointed out that his proposal to amend the charter was centered mainly on “economic provisions.”

He explained that among these provisions was one that restricts foreigner from owning land and other properties.

“I just want our country to be competitive economically. And certainly, one way to attract foreign investments is by lifting certain protectionist and restrictive provisions in our charter” Nograles pointed out.

He said he is willing to talk to Velarde to inform him of the real intention of Charter change.

‘‘I know and respect Brother Mike. It’s a warning that Congress leaders should not take lightly. But everything that may have been misunderstood can certainly be ironed out through an honest exchange of ideas on charter changes,’’ Nograles said.