By TONY LOPEZ
On Feb. 2,1987, the 1987 Constitution was ratified. On Feb. 11, 1987, it came into force.
Approved by the 48-member 1986 Constitutional Commission on Oct. 12, 1986, the 1987 Constitution was presented to President Corazon C. Aquino on Oct. 15, 1986. She had handpicked the 48 commissioners to draft the basic law of the land.
The commission came up with a 22,300-word constitution, one of the most wordy in the world. It is also one of the most confusing, what with a number of conflicting provisions. It was inspired by fear –fear of another Marcos dictatorship, fear of foreign investments, and fear of foreign dominance.
This year, the 1987 Constitution is 37 years old. The basic law has remained incredibly immutable, impervious to the ebb and flow of history and to economic ups and downs.
Due in whole or in part to defects in the 1987 Constitution, poverty remains rampant, especially in the agricultural sector. Farmers and fishermen are the poorest Filipinos. The quality of education has rapidly deteriorated with Filipino 15-year-olds unable to– read, to count beyond 20, and to understand science. Our work force cannot absorb the best in education and technology because of the total ban on ownership of schools by foreigners and the ban on practice of professions.
Deaths due to malnutrition are the highest in ASEAN. Because of malnutrition deaths, the number of deaths has exceeded the number of Filipinos born each year. Our income inequality is among the worst in the world.
The constitutional defects hamper the administration’s bold efforts to guarantee upper middle income status for the Filipino and deliver real inclusion.
The local economy is under the stranglehold of oligopolists. Our ASEAN neighbors, notably Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam, prospered mightily after constitutional reforms and liberalization of investment rules. The Philippines can do better.
The Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) have invited His Excellency, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., to be the guest of honor and speaker on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, at Shangrila Makati ballroom, to celebrate “Constitution Day”. Theme of the celebration is “The Constitution, Ang Bagong Pilipinas”.
Philconsa is the oldest organization of jurists, lawyers, professionals, businessmen and media dedicated to the protection, defense, and preservation of the Constitution. It is headed as president by House Speaker Martin Romualdez and as chairman by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno. MOPC is Asia’s first and oldest press club and the Philippines’ most prestigious press club.
It is headed by Eric Canoy of RMN Radio Network, as president, and this writer, as chairman.
BBM’s engagement before the Philconsa and MOPC is timely and urgent.
Said Speaker Romualdez in a recent speech before the MOPC:
“Our guiding document, the 1987 Philippine Constitution, has been monumental in safeguarding our democratic institutions and national sovereignty.
“But as stewards of the law, we recognize that adaptability is a cornerstone of effective governance. Multiple members of the House of Representatives and even the Kapatiran Party have submitted various proposals that mandate us, as elected officials, to explore these necessary changes.
The House of Representatives seeks to amend specific economic provisions, ones that are increasingly viewed as restrictive shackles rather than protective barriers:
“1. Article XII, Section 10, mandating a 60-40 ownership in favor of Filipinos in the development of natural resources.
“2. Article XVI, Section 11, limiting mass media ownership exclusively to Filipino citizens.
“3. Article XII, Section 11, capping foreign ownership of land.
Although drafted with patriotic intentions, these regulations have unintended adverse consequences, laments Speaker Martin. These are:
1. Limited Job Creation: Countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have been welcoming foreign direct investments with open arms and reaping substantial benefits, mainly through job creation. We, on the other hand, have missed out on these opportunities due to our stringent regulations.
2. Infrastructure Lag: Infrastructure is not just about roads and bridges; it’s about enabling people to reach their potential. Limiting FDIs deprives us of essential capital and expertise needed for nationwide development.
3. Technological Stagnation: In an era where the global economy is increasingly knowledge-driven, our inability to attract investments in technology and R&D puts us at a severe disadvantage.
4. Higher Cost of Living: Fewer players in the market mean less competition, leading to higher prices for ordinary consumers. This affects everything from the food on our table to the quality of the internet we use.
Data-driven governance is effective governance. According to the World Bank, our FDI net inflows grew by an average of just 3.9% between 2010 and 2019. Compare that to Vietnam at 7.6% and Indonesia at 9.4%.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report in 2019 placed the Philippines at 64th out of 141 countries. “These aren’t just numbers; they are indicators of lost opportunities,” winces the chief of the House of Representatives.
“Our Constitution, as noble and well-intentioned as it is, has elements that are no longer adaptive to our needs,” says Romualdez.
Amending the flawed provisions isn’t just a matter of law—it’s about transforming the opportunities available to every Filipino, he contends.
“It’s about catalyzing a new era of prosperity, characterized by more robust economic growth, technological advancement, job creation, and ultimately, a better quality of life for each and every citizen.”
“As a nation, we can ill afford to be prisoners of the past; we must be architects of our future. The call for change is both loud and clear, and the time to act is now.”
Incidentally, according to Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the House, since the 8th Congress til today, has initiated 358 bills and resolutions seeking to amend the Constitution. All were rejected by the Senate. Sad.