The rally was organized by Conversation, a group comprising the Roman Catholic Church, academe and non-government organizations.
Conversation was organized after allies of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives railroaded the proposal to change the Constitution through a
Constituent Assembly even without the participation of the Senate.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro branded the
House members' initiative a "wrong move by the wrong people at a wrong time"
in a pastoral letter issued on Dec. 12.
Ledesma said the motives of Charter change would remain suspect unless questions surrounding the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency, the P700-million fertilizer scam and other valid issues against the government were resolved.
Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Camiguin Archdiocese of the Philippine Independent Church said the haste of "our leaders in changing the 1987 Constitution was borne out of greed."
He said any change should benefit the Filipino people and not the few who control the country's natural resources.
Datu Migketay Victorino Saway of the Talaandig tribe in Lantapan, Bukidnon said that the attempt to railroad the changing of the 1987 Constitution "should be corrected as there was no proper and informed consent from the people in terms of the process of changing it and substantial participation in the crafting of the proposed new Constitution."
"We will only support charter change through Constitutional Convention as long as we are assured that it is good for the people and country. And the only way to ensure that this will happen is for genuine consultation to happen," he said.
Muslims were also represented in the rally. Ben D. Ramiso, executive director of the Muslim Christian Agency for Advocacy, Relief and Development (MUCARD), said that their group, which claims a mass base of about 200 communities in Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur and Norte, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur, will only support Charter change after 2010.
The Jesus is Lord Movement headed by Pastor Edgar Jinayon also joined the prayer rally. "We are one with the people in opposing this illegal and immoral means of changing the Constitution," he said.
Anti-Arroyo groups such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Black and White Movement and opposition political parties like the PDP-Laban also attended the rally.
Ledesma said that while they welcomed everyone supporting the anti-Con-Ass movement they would not allow leaders of political parties and movements to
speak on stage.
Around 500 members of militant groups marched from the Capitol Grounds to Gaston Park. In deference, however, to Ledesma's stand they folded their placards and waved only white anti-Cha-cha flaglets as they entered the rally area.
Lawyer Beverly Musni of the human rights group Karapatan said that "they will march actively in unity along with those opposed to the illegality and immorality of Constituent Assembly."
She said they can only support Charter change if it is along the lines of
genuine land reform and nationalist industrialization.
Organizers were happy with the attendance. "Considering that it is Sunday, the Christmas Season had just started, we got a good representation in this interfaith rally," said Msgr. Elmer Abacahin, spokesperson of the Archdiocese.