MANILA, Philippines — Contrary to the claims of those who want to ease restrictions in the 1987 Constitution, Charter change may be a Trojan horse that will cause more problems for Filipinos because other issues, including corruption and the quality of governance, are bigger hindrances to economic development.
“Constitutional change will not create a tsunami of foreign investments,” said Florangel Rosario Braid, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, quoting renowned economist and national scientist Raul Fabella, during a hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.
The high cost of power, the “many steps to be taken in starting business enterprises,” effectiveness of judicial and legal systems, local peace and order situation” are “limiting factors,” she said.
“Informal surveys have shown that foreign investors are not as bothered by the 60-40 [Filipino to foreign] ownership ratio as they are with corruption and other difficulties faced in doing business,” she said.
Aside from the complex and contentious matters of libralization and globalization, Braid said many Filipinos do not even fully understand the Constitution and it would not be prudent to rush into constitutional amendments without sufficient public debate.
“Amending the Constitution is a matter of trust and confidence. [Previous presidents] tried to introduce revisions, but they failed because people thought that their initiatives were guided by self-serving motives. Up to this time, this perception remains,” added Braid, and the first president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
She said many Filipinos think that the constituent assembly, as a mode of amending the charter, will not confine itself to inserting only the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” and “once the floodgates are open, more revisions will be added including extension of terms.”
Renowned jurist Vicente Mendoza agreed and said the country’s “urgent need” now is to deal with the “greatest challenges” the coronavirus pandemic and the holding of free, credible, and honest national and local elections in 2022.
“Already, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 10,242 people in this in this country. Yet we still have no clear schedule of vaccination,” he said.
He warned of the “hazard of a runaway constituent assembly or constitutional convention” that will propose term extension and other amendments “for election purposes.”
The third resource person at the Senate hearing, Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), said moves to amend the Constitution was “very much like a Trojan Horse.”
“The statistical power of foreign ownership restriction in clearing [foreign direct investment] flows is found to be low, indicating that other factors are also in place,” she said.
She cited a study which showed that restrictive policies barely had an affect the inflow of foreign direct investments, because other factors are purportedly also at play.
The study cited factors such as “macro instability, corruption, high cost of power and poor infrastructure support” that supposedly deter foreign investments, according to Manasan.
Among these factors, the quality of governance is supposedly deemed as the most important factor in attracting FDIs.
Governance quality in a country, Manasan said, covers political instability; absence of violence; and government effectiveness, which supposedly captures perceptions of quality of the civil service and degree of independence for political pressures.
“Doing [this] now distracts legislators and policymakers, from the more urgent tasks at hand: addressing the health and economic decline brought about by the pandemic, she said.
Another former constitutional convention delegate, lawyer Christian Monsod, dismissed allegations that the 1987 Constitution has failed to accomplish its promise of delivering social justice and human rights.
“I submit that we are failing in this regard, not because of the Constitution, but because we have not fully implemented it, especially these provisions in social justice and local economy,” he said.