LAST week the House of Representatives has passed on second reading the so-called economic charter change bill formally known as Resolution of Both Houses 1 (RBH-1). Co-authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and Senator Ralph Recto, RBH-1 seeks to enable the removal of constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of Philippine businesses and property through the insertion of the phrases “unless provided by law” into the pertinent provisions of the Constitutions.
The Resolution that was well endorsed by administration lackeys of both Houses of Congress provides “that a voice of three-fourths (3/4) of all its Members, each House voting separately, and pursuant to Article VII of the Constitution, to propose amendments to Articles XII, XIV and XVI of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, with the following proposals…”
Judging from posts in social media and from comments of independent groups and individuals, this move to change the Constitution is emerging to be very unpopular. For one, this administration and its party line is plunging into the pit of a serious credibility crisis. They never bothered even to approximate their promised legislations that could have substantiated their slogans and probably bolster this country to real prosperity—the likes of the antipoverty bill, the freedom of information bill, the anti-dynasty bill and a couple more. Some well-meaning citizens harbor suspicions of some sinister plot from somewhere in the corridors of power that stand to benefit once the country open wide its doors to foreign capitalists.
But granting that amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution happens, this will only be a formality of a “de facto” invasion of foreign capitalists that has been wrecking havoc to Philippine economy for some years now. Through the labyrinth of intricate corporate layering and dummies, foreign tycoons from neighboring Asian countries are in control of the country’s economy by being the majority owners of the Philippines’ public utility enterprise. These tycoons are presently the controlling stockholders of the country’s biggest public utility firms in electric power, communications, water, transportation and, more so, other big businesses such as mining.
Thanks to the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who rushed to pose these questions: 1. What do we, as a nation, stand to gain from relaxing the provisions now deemed restrictive? 2. How are we assured that the resources of the country, both natural and human, benefit Filipino nationals principally? 3. What are the human, social and environmental costs of lifting present limits to foreign participation in Philippine economic and business affairs?
Truth to tell, whenever moves to amend the Philippine constitution are in the offing, one can be more or less certain that they are meant to advance a political agenda that is not inclusive. This country has not yet reached a political maturity wherein the common good is given prominence. The Philippine political culture is what needs changing, not the charter.