On January 6, just a few days removed from New Year’s Day 2021, there were reports pertaining to two separate efforts towards amending the 1987 constitution. One effort is being led by the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments led by its chairman Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako Bikol partylist. The other effort is being led in the Senate by Senators Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino who both filed a resolution for both the Senate and the House to convene as a constituent assembly to discuss certain amendments to the constitution.
So to mark a long overdue post on this site, we shall take time to look into this latest effort in reforming the constitution and find out what’s actually at stake. Beyond the “no to cha-cha” rhetoric you’ve been hearing from clueless idiots these days.
It’s the economy, stupid
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the Philippine economy upside down and as the pandemic is still raging on, the country finds itself hard to recover economically. While the rest of the world is also suffering economically, the Philippines is seen as one of the countries that will have a lot of difficulties overcoming this problem, a result of an outdated and restrictive economic policy rooted in the constitution itself.
As you all know, the 1987 constitution has put ownership restrictions on industries in the country, with at least 60% reserved to Filipino citizens. This has turned off many foreign businesses who wish to invest in the country. Let’s face it, would you as a business set up shop in a country that forces you to give up your control of that business over to their own citizens, who may not be familiar with the processes and values you have defined for that business?
Calls to at least ease this restrictive provision have been made for a long while. In fact, the foreign chambers of commerce in the country have long called for such. And as the pandemic continues to negatively affect the country’s economy, the need for more investments becomes apparent as key to recovery, despite that such investments may be lower than they would be in a non-pandemic year. Especially given the fact that neighboring countries are courting foreign investments as a way to deal with their respective economic situation and are at least more successful in doing so because their constitutions have no such stupid provisions.
The current efforts are primarily aimed to correct the provision and relax the strict ownership restrictions. One proposal would be to insert a line in the provisions in Article XII of the 1987 constitution with “unless otherwise provided by law”. Another idea would be to delete the provisions completely, which is ideal but may be more contentious.
Other provisions to be tackled?
The Senate resolution filed by Senators dela Rosa and Tolentino for constitutional amendments interestingly also cited the need for a “more pragmatic democratic representation” as an impetus. There was some speculation as to what such reform regarding representation would entail. That is until it was revealed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III that in a meeting with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte back in November, Pres. Duterte revealed that he wishes to have the partylist system that is enshrined in the constitution be amended at the very least.
This should come as no suprise given how Duterte in recent months lambasted the Communist Party of the Philippines for their terroristic activities and the Makabayan bloc of partylist representatives in the House of Representatives for supporting these activities of the CPP. If anything, this would mark the next step in the Duterte administration’s efforts to curb the power of the CPP even more.
Other possible amendments may be discussed but the priority would be the economic amendments to be passed. As to what they may be, who knows. But one thing for sure is that the so-called “term extensions” are not part of the discussions, nor are other political matters at that.
The passing of the other proposals would be a bonus. Sadly, given the tight one-year timeframe and the general elections happening next year, the matters of federalism and shift towards either a full or semi-parliamentary government is out of the question. Such matters will need more than a year of discussions given the more contentious nature of the reforms and the intricacies along with them that need to be discussed.
Currently, the target is to have the discussions, convening of the constituent assembly, and the passage of the measures, the economic amendments and other possible amendments, to be done within this year for them to be put into a vote via a referendum which will be done alongside the May 2022 general elections.
Already, the usual suspects are voicing their opposition to these reforms, such as the left-leaning groups, the political opposition, and senile member of the 1987 constitutional commission Christian Monsod who believes the constitution does not need to be changed at all. All saying that it is not the right time to discuss the amendments, even though THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO DISCUSS ESPECIALLY THE ECONOMIC AMENDMENTS.
Will at least the economic amendments finally push through this time around? Who knows for sure. Nevertheless, we shall keep tabs on this latest effort and hope for the best with regards to the outcome.