Cha-cha: House vows to focus on economic provisions

Delon Porcalla, Sheila Crisostomo, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Cha-cha: House vows to focus on economic provisions
“The proponents of the lifting of the economic provisions in the Constitution agree on one thing: opening the economy wide for inflow of foreign capital is the key to address the aspirations and ideals of Filipinos in present times,” Romualdez said.
STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Allies of President Marcos in the House of Representatives who are pushing for Charter change shall limit their focus on amending “overly protective economic provisions that restrict the inflow of foreign capital,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said yesterday.

“The proponents of the lifting of the economic provisions in the Constitution agree on one thing: opening the economy wide for inflow of foreign capital is the key to address the aspirations and ideals of Filipinos in present times,” Romualdez said.

He pointed out how congressional deliberations are “more focused now on the need to encourage investments that would further stimulate economic activities, create job opportunities, reduce poverty and lower prices of goods and services.”

Romualdez expressed his House colleagues’ “inclination” yesterday in a speech celebrating Constitution Day in Malacañang, with the President, his maternal cousin, as guest of honor.

The Speaker also sits as president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

He said aside from hearings in the House at the Batasan complex in Quezon City, the committee chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has scheduled public discussions and dialogues in other parts of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

“That is why, when the President in his travels as the number one salesman of the country, we are often asked that after you have made so much progress and gains in opening up the Philippine economy, the last missing piece of the puzzle remains, how about your restrictive Constitution?” recalled Romualdez.

“That is why we in Congress are facing up to this question and to this issue that burns to our minds today and may actually open up the aspirations of the Filipino people for tomorrow,” he said.

Romualdez highlighted the need for foreign direct investments (FDI) by citing data and the experiences of other countries, culled from the reports of the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department, which show how FDIs stimulate economic growth.

He said based on UN data, FDI account for the largest source of external financing in developing countries, greater than remittances, private debt and portfolio equity, or official development assistance.

“Higher FDI inflows can ease capital constraints and contribute to output and employment growth. Given the appropriate host-country policies and a basic level of development, a preponderance of studies shows that FDI triggers technology spillovers, assists human capital formation, contributes to international trade integration, helps create a more competitive business environment and enhances enterprise development,” he said.

“All of these contribute to higher economic growth, which is the most potent tool for alleviating poverty in developing countries,” he said. Romualdez lamented that the country has not been receiving as much FDI as its neighbors.

‘Changing times’

The Constitution can keep up with the changing times, President Marcos said yesterday, as he emphasized the importance of learning the lessons of the past in achieving a “just and humane society.”

Marcos said the Philippine Constitution has undergone several amendments to keep abreast with the conditions needed for the country to hurdle the challenges in the local and international scenes.

“It is indeed noteworthy that our Supreme Law remains a dynamic and flexible expression of our collective will, capable of adapting to the changing times and circumstances of our nation,” Marcos said in a speech during the celebration of the Philippine Constitution Day in Malacañang.

“As we honor the Supreme Law of the land and perpetuate this milestone, it is important to remember that it is through the lessons of the past that we are able to establish a government that embodies our goals and creates a vision for a just and humane society,” he added.

The Philippines has had six constitutions since the proclamation of independence on June 12, 1898, an online post by Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM) said.

For every adoption of a new Constitution, a corresponding proclamation was issued to celebrate the date that each charter came into full force and effect, RTVM added.

According to the Official Gazette, the present Constitution was ratified by a plebiscite on Feb. 2, 1987, nearly a year after the EDSA People Power Revolution which ousted Marcos’ father and namesake, the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

The charter came into full force and effect on Feb. 11, 1987 after then president Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 58. In 1988, Aquino signed Proclamation No. 211, which moved the commemoration of Constitution Day from Jan. 17 to Feb. 2 of every year.

Marcos noted that the Constitution establishes a democratic system of government, which ensures the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

He said the charter also “guarantees the fundamental rights and freedom of every Filipino.”

“Apart from being an allocation of power, we must also take to heart that the Constitution is also a social contract where the people have bestowed their sovereign powers to the State for the common good,” the President said.

Creating a truly just and equitable society, Marcos said, is an “ongoing process.” He also cited the need to encourage Filipinos to recognize the significance of the country’s Constitution and laws.

In the same speech, Marcos lauded the Philconsa for its efforts to defend and promote the importance of the charter. He urged the group to continue supporting the government in ensuring that its plans and programs remain compliant with the tenets of the Constitution and existing laws.

“Your tireless work is an inspiration to us all, and I encourage you to continue your efforts,” Marcos said.

“Philconsa’s role in safeguarding the Constitution is vital, and I am confident that you will continue to carry out your duties with the same dedication and commitment that you have shown throughout the years,” he added.


Two constitutional experts agree that it is time to remove “restrictive economic provisions” from the 37-year-old Constitution to usher in more foreign investments, adding that the country’s “Filipino First” principle is already “outdated” due to globalization.

“Based on our review and assessment, we believe that the 1987 Constitution must be amended ... but limited to removing its restrictive economic provisions,” former finance secretary Margarito Teves said at yesterday’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum.

Teves noted these provisions are outdated as they were also incorporated in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, when the Philippines was still pursuing the Filipino First policy to “counter American economic interests.”

Professor Clarita Carlos, chief policy adviser on national security and other affairs at the House of Representatives, agreed that such economic provisions are hindering the “flow of (foreign) capital” into the Philippines.

“Our economy is meshed with the rest of the economies of 200 (countries) ... Time is changing and economies are interconnected,” Carlos said, referring to globalization.

“You would see that ‘when America sneezes, we catch a cold or flu.’ We have to use that metaphor. So, we stand by that (as we) are becoming part of the globalized world,” she added.

The political scientist from the University of the Philippines cited how the “desired outcome” of the Constitution is no longer seen, signaling the need for change.

“The Constitution is a living document and it no longer fits the political and social culture where it was planted; so you have to uproot it and see how it can be remedied,” she said.

However, Carlos said proposals to change the form of government could lead to “big fights” in the debates for Charter change, so these are best left out.

Teves stressed that the economic provisions in the Constitution are no longer aligned with global economic trends.

“These include provisions on foreign ownership of land and exploitation of natural resources, foreign equity in mass media and advertising, education and the foreign practice of professions,” he said.

He said the Philippines needs “flexibility” in order to “bring in much needed investments and create jobs in key sectors.”

Both Carlos and Teves also recommend that Cha-cha be done through constitutional convention or ConCon and not through constituent assembly or Con-ass.

Carlos said this is the direction being taken by the House under the leadership of Romualdez, as this is the “pulse” of the public.

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