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What ails Philippine economy? 2 Constitution framers take differing views

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Dr. Bernardo Villegas: Constitutional amendment. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Two framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on Tuesday gave differing views on why the country has not developed economically as it should during the course of the oral argument on foreign ownership of utility firms.

Amici Curiae (friends of the court) Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Dr. Bernardo Villegas of the Center for Research and Communication at the University of Asia and the Pacific, both members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, were invited by the Supreme Court to shed light on the definition of the word “capital” regarding questions of foreign ownership of public utility companies.

During Tuesday’s oral argument on the foreign ownership composition of utility firms, Villegas said that with the Constitutional restrictions in foreign investments, the Philippines had a “sorry experience in attracting foreign investors.”

“Restrictions to foreign investments give rise to corruption and harassment of foreign investors,” Villegas told the high court.

Villegas has been pushing for the amendment of the economic provisions of the Constitution, saying that only “few Filipino elites” are engaged in the ownership of corporations.

Bernas, however, said the Filipino First definition under Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution stemmed from the “desire for the national economy not to be controlled by aliens.”
“What did the people on the street vote for when they ratified? What they voted on was not on the debates… but on their understanding of the word ‘capital’ in their everyday meaning encountered in everyday life,” Bernas said.

Bernas averred that the definition of the word “capital” does not entail a constitutional amendment.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas: Statutory amendment. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“The problem is more statutory,” Bernas said, saying that it should be the Foreign Investment Act or the law that regulates foreign investments that should be debated in Congress.

The five-hour oral arguments stemmed from the motions for reconsideration separately filed by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and the SEC on the high court’s June 2011 ruling on the petition of PLDT stockholder Wilson Gamboa, who alleged that the Constitutional provision on foreign ownership of Philippine public utilities was violated in the case of PLDT.

In its ruling on the legal issue on the definition of the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII, of the Constitution, the Supreme Court held that this “refers only to shares of stock entitled to vote in the election of directors,” or common shares. The high court also directed the SEC to apply this definition in determining the extent of allowable foreign ownership in PLDT, and impose sanctions if there is a violation of this particular provision of the Constitution.


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Tags: Bernardo Villegas , economy , foreign ownership , Joaquin Bernas , Philippines , utility firms

  • pablopablo

    Are communist countries or dictatorship any cleaner in corruption than the Philippines? At least in the Philippines we have freedom of expression and more open media reporting. Why are foreign investors spending money in China, Russia, Vietnam, Middle East than in the Philippines? Could it just be that the current government changes policy too quickly and does not create a stable business climate. Who wants to invest in mining or business, when the laws and taxes drastically change when a new president/mayor comes in? If Filipinos are so inherently corrupt, why do many of them become great citizens and leaders when they move abroad. And why was the Philippines the 2nd best Asian economy next to Japan in the 60′s? We have a chance to be great again…..

  • Paul Cruz

    The Philippine economy is getting better.

  • asdafaa qwesda

    The problem is simple, businessmen (foreign ones worse off than local ones) are harassed and turned into milking cows by politicians and labor unions.

    Other East Asian nations also had caps on foreign ownership and plenty of corruption during their developmental stages (e.g. China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, etc.). The difference? These nations were prepared to stand by the businessman’s right to free enterprise and the worker’s right to work. Unions were not allowed to monopolize the supply of labor to any firm. The government was prepared to shoot these union leaders if they blocked other workers from trying to work in a firm for lower wages. They were prepared to put these people in their place, whether they liked it or not. And they protected the right of investors to earn a profit. Thereby encouraging further investments which gave locals the opportunity to copy their technologies.

  • adam_d_ant

    what ails our economy — whooaa… so many things wrong ..

    idiots abound . some even propose filipino self-sufficiency. as if the phils have enough resources. this is now a different world .. the notion of self-sustaining country is long gone..

    factories/companies will go to a country that can give them “extras” .. sc johnson, palmolive, johnson and johnson, fedex, ford, intel … etc.. so many. giants and good companies. they all took off to places more conducive to business. thailand and indonesia were the benificiaries.

    this idiotic notion that phils should be for filipinos is fallacy. transfer of technology is paramount. our communication. road network, ports and airports are not par with the rest of the world. we are stuck in a time machine.

    hate gloria… but the woman had the guts to improve the infrstructure of the country. railroads (north/south) operational na sana .. zte kung natuloy mas matino na ang communication. but gloria’s pig-headed. she did not bow down to the “taipans” that control media. these same group of oligarch also control the business in the phils. economically, these greedy “pinoys” will not allow foreginers to compete with them. they have someone in the palace to do their bidding.

    • muddygoose

      Ayan ka na naman, oligarchs na naman.

      • adam_d_ant

        o di hindi na oligarch. hindi na din tai-pans. gawin natin “businessmen”..

        lopezes, ayalas, sys, tans, gokongweis, cojuangcos, belmontes … now tell me kung ano ang negosyo sa pinas na hindi nila hawak?

        tubig, kuryente, media, retail, real estate … sigue nga.

  • Nic Legaspi

    Let’s start by electing truly capable public officials in 2013! Enough of TraPos and political dynasties who do nothing but enrich themselves. This is the first step in making sure our country does not sink any lower…



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