Constitution Framer: Don't change charter 'for power and money'
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The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

Constitution Framer: Don't change charter 'for power and money'

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - January 27, 2021 - 2:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — The 1987 Constitution should not be changed for selfish reasons, a Framer of the Constitution told senators on Wednesday, claiming that a current move for charter change is motivated by power and money.

Lawyer Christian Monsod, also a former commissioner of the Commission on Elections, said this as the Senate committees on constitutional amendments and economic affairs opened hearings on proposed economic amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

"There have been five previous attempts to change the Constitution....all of these past attempts were unsuccessful because the people perceived the articulated purposes as a smokescreen for self-serving ends," Monsod said.

"The real motive of [Resolution of Both Houses No. 2], just like previous attempts, is power and money," he added, referring to the motion filed by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco seeking to convene Congress as the constituent assembly to amend Articles XII, XIV, and XVI of the Constitution.

Those articles deal with National Economy and Patrimony; Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports; and General Provisions respectively.

"RBH 2 is dangerous and devious because it is a wholesale transfer of power from the constitution to the congress in determining the limitations of foreign ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities, media, advertising, educational institutions," Monsod said.

He also addressed the support shored up for charter change among members of the business community, saying: "The motive of the businessman is not the motive of the country either, that's just the rhetoric. The real motive is profit."

He also cautioned that adding the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law," as proposed by Velasco, to the provisions listed above will render them meaningless and will blow open the door "for corruption or transactional legislation which corrupt politicians...are very adept at doing."

Former Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna also told senators that upon reviewing the resolutions of both houses, there were several instances where he found the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to be misplaced.

'Instead of changing the Constitution, implement its core principles'

"The heart of our Constitution and its most compelling principle is social justice and human rights," Monsod said. However, he emphasized that its promise "of radical social change has not been fulfilled by any administration since ESDA."

He also cited mass poverty and inequality, fostered by a system of political dynasties and corruption, as the recurring ills of Philippine society, adding that any changes to the charter must seek to solve these problems through proper means. "It is the ends that drive the means and not the other way around."

"I submit that we are failing in this regard, not because of the constitution but because we have not fully implemented it, especially its provisions on social justice and local economy," Monson argued.

"Any changes in the constitution must be towards this vision, and the means must include the two compelling principles: namely, never again to any authoritarianism and the economy must safely and firmly be in the hands of Filipinos themselves."

For former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, addressing the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring good government by safeguarding elections are more pressing issues than charter change.

"I submit, whether it is to liberalize what allegedly has been considered restrictive economic provisions or to abolish the party-list system, no more urgent need can prevail over [these] two challenges," he told senators.

"Good government is as urgent a challenge as anything I can think of," Mendoza added, stressing the need for Filipinos to choose their leaders wisely.

"The education of the people for wise voting and the preparation for clean, honest, and credible elections that can spell good government in this country demand the patriotism of everyone and we need to summon all our will to bring that patriotic back to the people."

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