We, the sovereign Filipino people

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

Approved by the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was presented to former president Corazon C. Aquino and ratified on Feb. 2, 1987 by a plebiscite and proclaimed on Feb. 11, 1987. As I write this column, it is Feb. 2, 2024 and to date we are seeing more headlines on the topic of our Constitution.

Just like we were once taught in school, the Philippine Constitution is considered the supreme law of the Republic of the Philippines, with government being responsible for protecting and serving our people. The Philippines, being a democratic state, asserts that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.

Not too long ago, my close friends and advocates of constitutional reform, including myself, have been both passionate and enthusiastic on this subject as we felt that it was time to look into the critical issues, especially in the areas that would make us more at par with an ever-changing dynamic world.

Fortunately for me, a student who never truly took this subject seriously in high school, I had a second chance at re-learning this lesson as changes around the world helped me realize that certain modifications (if one may call it that) might be necessary for our country’s growth, as we would benefit from opportunities that would address the flaws or areas in the Constitution that are worth looking into.

A few years ago, particularly on Feb. 2, 2018, former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez opened the possibility of canceling the midterm 2019 elections while former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III said that the six-year term of FPRRD may be extended “if necessary” in order to shift the country to federalism.

It was also in the same year that retired SC justice Adolfo Azcuna said that what should be done instead is a review to determine necessary changes in order to better address the present situation of the Filipino people.

Again and finding myself as a forever student of this topic, I have been given the chance to study the proposed amendments for the Constitution. Beginning with education as this is my biggest advocacy, and with gratitude to my friends from the House of Representatives, the proposed amendment for educational institutions, Article XIV, focuses on amending the part that states (Section 4 #2)  educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards, shall be owned solely by citizens of the Philippines or corporations or associations at least 60 percent of the capital of which is owned by such citizens. The Congress may however, require increased Filipino equity participation in all institutions.

Section 4 #2 also specifies that the control and administration of educational institutions shall be vested in citizens of the Philippines. It further states that no educational institution shall be established exclusively for aliens and no group of aliens shall comprise more than 1/3 of the enrollment in any school. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to schools established for foreign diplomatic personnel and their dependents and, unless otherwise provided by law, for other foreign temporary residents.

The rationale behind the proposed amendments is based on the principle that in order to achieve the goal of becoming a high middle-income economy, Filipinos need improved education in skills required for the future global economy.

Considering the increasing impact of disruptive technologies on traditional jobs, the rationale explains that it is essential to allow foreign ownership and control of educational institutions to enhance the quality of education in the country. Among other factors, the rationale seeks to further explain that based on Republic Act No. 11448 or the Transnational Higher Education Act, foreign higher education institutions (FHEI) are allowed to establish branches in the Philippines and as per Section 9, FHEIs may establish branch campuses in the Philippines through a local partner, at least 60 percent of which is owned by Filipino citizens, and duly registered with the SEC or the DTI, as the case may be.

While there are other factors in this rationale to consider and support the said proposed amendments, the point of consideration would certainly still be on how much of these changes would actually be first and foremost understood by the people who will and should be the biggest beneficiaries of these reforms.

The Philippne Constitution turns 37 years old as I write this article and going back into history, our present Constitution is said to be only the seventh revision of our country’s basic law since our independence from Spain in 1898. Interesting fact isn’t it?

This brings us back to the drawing board and whether or not we should go ahead with making the suitable changes in response to the needs of the current times. As I mentioned earlier, I consider myself to be a “forever student” on this matter, but as far as my learnings go, I continue consulting more experts on this topic in pursuing the vision I share with my friends and advocates.

Progress is truly now or never for the Philippines and hope remains in simply doing these things in good faith.

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