Leap of faith on Charter amendments
With President Marcos expressing his support for the amendment of some economic provisions of the Constitution in his speech last week to the Philippine Constitution Association, those amendments would just be a matter of time.
The stars have aligned, so to speak, on that issue.
For now, the proposed amendments in active discussion are those mentioned in Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 drafted by the Senate, which would add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the provisions in the Constitution that relate to foreign investments in public utilities, education and advertising.
The Senate wants the Filipino ownership requirements in those activities open to changes through legislative action, i.e., Congress may, at its discretion, increase or decrease the nationality ownership levels.
While those proposals are acceptable to the House of Representatives, some of its members would like to extend the amendment to other economic provisions that would create more job opportunities, increase corporate access to social programs and spur development in various sectors through foreign investments.
The proposed amendments had drawn opposition from some quarters on the ground that the dearth in foreign investments in the Philippines is due to causes other than the issue of ownership, e.g., difficulty in doing business; inadequate infrastructure; and inconsistent implementation of government policies.
With the President and the heads of the two chambers of Congress already in agreement about amending some economic provisions, that action may, to use a popular business lingo, be considered a “done deal.”
What remains to be resolved are the wording of the amendments, the manner of their approval by Congress acting as a constituent assembly and when they shall be submitted to the people for ratification.
Despite the issues that had been raised against the proposed amendments, it is reasonable to give its proponents the benefit of the doubt that they are motivated by good or well-meaning intentions in taking a second look at the charter’s economic provisions.
It’s been 37 years since the 1987 Constitution became the governing law of the country. Its provisions on significant aspects of the national economy, e.g., natural resources, public utilities, education, media and foreign investments, are based on the events and circumstances of the late 1980s.
Those were the days when, among others, globalization was simply a subject for academic discussion, the internet was not as developed and influential as it is now, and international trade was dominated and controlled by the United States and Europe.
The world and the global economy have evolved many times over. The economic theories and principles that guided the framers of those economic provisions have lost some of their merits and relevance.
While it may be true that the constitution should not be treated like an ordinary piece of legislation that can be revised or modified depending on the wishes of the powers-that-be, it is equally true that it should be a living document that adapts to the needs of the times.
It is not meant to be etched in stone.
No crystal ball or tarot cards can foresee whether or not the amendments proposed for some economic provisions would accomplish their announced objectives.
Note that even if the amendments push through, they will not be self-executory. The executive and legislative branches of government would have to sit down and discuss the ways and means to make those amendments effective instruments for national growth and development.
The amendments may be considered a leap of faith that they would be the spark plugs that would rev up the economy and make life a lot better for majority of Filipinos.
It’s possible that those amendments would not make any difference and the country would remain in the same pits as it is now. But what if it does?
As the saying goes, it is better to have tried and lost than not to have tried at all. INQ