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Philippines: Cardinal opposes moves to amend constitution

 Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has joined a coalition opposing moves to amend the Constitution and adopt a parliamentary system, according to a convenor of the group. Former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod of "One Voice" said Vidal had signed up for the "non-partisan" movement, which is seeking social reforms, the holding of a constitutional convention if needed, and the rebuilding of Filipinos' trust in democratic institutions. "The very encouraging response from individual Filipinos and organizations demonstrate that people are looking for a better way to address the political impasse so that the country can move on," Monsod said. Other religious leaders who have signed up with One Voice against a people's initiative being pushed by many local officials and the group "Sigaw ng Bayan" include Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias and Cainta Catholic College president Monsignor Arnel Legarejos. Monsod said four trustees of the Foundation for Worldwide People Power had also signed up. They are Inquirer founder Eugenia D Apostol, former energy secretary Delfin Lazaro, Edilberto de Jesus, and Panfilo Domingo. "One Voice's position is that there is a need for unity around peaceful and constitutional processes that would strengthen, rather than endanger, the country's democratic institutions," Monsod added. The group's five-point agenda calls for the discontinuation of the present "people's initiative;" a social reform program now; elections in 2007 as scheduled, as an indirect referendum on the current administration; a constitutional convention after next year's elections, if necessary, and a collective effort to rebuild the trustworthiness of democratic institutions. "We appeal to the proponents of the people's initiative, especially the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo], to please rethink this move. Not only is it questionable as a genuine people's initiative but in the context of our current political culture and structure, the kind of parliamentary system being proposed will tend to worsen the concentration of political power in the country," One Voice said in its position paper