Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Charter Change and Overseas Filipinos

Posted by butalidnl on 25 May 2006

Charter change, or amending the constitution, is a proposal that literally does not include Overseas Filipinos. In the first place, we were not consulted in the process of proposing changes to the constitution. Also, if it finally comes to a referendum on whether or not to accept the constitution, we will not be able to participate. The Overseas Absentee Voting Law, which entitles us Overseas Filipinos to vote, excludes us from participating in referenda and plebiscites.

The government-sponsored proposed amendments to the constitution will also disenfranchise us from participating in Philippine elections. Under the present Overseas Absentee Voting Law, Overseas Filipinos could vote for national posts:i.e. president, vice president, senators and partylist members of the House of Representatives. Under the proposed shift to the parliamentary system these posts will disappear: the president and the prime minister will be voted on by parliament, the Senate will disappear, and even the partylist system will be replaced. This all means that the so-called Charter Change proposal will keep us Overseas Filipinos outside of the Philippine electoral process.

This is not to say that Overseas Filipinos do not have anything to gain from changing the constitution. It’s just that the proposed changes as they now stand will negate our gains so far. We would be more in favor of amendments that will improve our standing as Overseas Filipinos. For one, it would be good to have a number of congress (or parliament) seats allotted to Overseas Filipinos. Also, there could be a clearer framework that would protect our rights while at the same time encourage us to maximize our contribution to Philippine development. These kinds of provisions could all be part of an “Overseas Filipino section” within the constitution. Our role and potential contributions to Philippine society and its economy should warrant such a section.

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