The political dimension of charter change has dominated the national agenda. But the constant driving force behind all the attempts since the last decade to modify the Constitution has been the external pressure coming mainly from the WTO, the US, the EU and other rich countries to create the sort of policy environment that will allow globalization to fully thrive in the Philippines.
MANILA — The persistent efforts of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies at the House of Representatives to implement charter change (cha-cha) are widely and correctly perceived as a scheme to prolong their hold to power. But relegated to the background and seldom touched by mainstream media is the role that foreign governments and business — in particular American, European and Japanese — play in the relentless moves to modify the 1987 Constitution.
Since the time of President Fidel Ramos up to the present Arroyo administration, external pressure to implement cha-cha has never ceased. Such pressure may not always be in the form of direct and open lobbying but they can be found in international agreements that the country is a party to, such as the various pacts under the World Trade Organization (WTO). They can also be found in official country reports on the Philippines in relation to its policies restricting the unhampered flow of foreign goods and capital. Sometimes, the external pressure is more direct and open, exerted through advocacy papers that foreign business groups submit to government agencies.
The political dimension of cha-cha, such as its mode and timing and specific political amendments, tends to be more controversial and contentious because it is a source of division of the various factions of the political elite who endlessly try to outmaneuver each other for control of state power. But while the political nuances may vary under the last three administrations that tried to modify the 1987 Constitution, the constant driving force behind cha-cha moves since the last decade has been the external pressure to create the sort of policy environment that will allow globalization to fully thrive.
Globalization as Context
The immediate goal of globalization is to create the most favorable regime for corporations to operate and profit. This can be achieved through a set of rules that will eliminate various forms of state intervention on business – including ownership in or regulation of certain economic sectors or activities. Deregulation, privatization, and liberalization reforms have been designed to accomplish such objective.
Globalization proponents led by the world’s biggest transnational corporations or TNCs — represented by governments of the US, Europe, Japan and other rich countries — have pulled off a significant feat when they established the WTO in 1995. For the first time, a multilateral organization dedicated to free trade with its own set of binding rules and with a mandate to enforce disciplinary actions on its members has been set up. As a free-standing organization, the WTO has effectively undermined national constitutions and laws and made them inferior to the rules of the trade body. As its first director-general Renato Ruggiero once said: “We are no longer writing the rules of interaction among separate national economies. We are writing the constitution of a single global economy”. 
Indeed, the WTO and its various agreements heightened the pressure and attacks on national constitutions and laws, an onslaught those older multilateral bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have also carried out, such as through Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), to ensure continued economic domination by the rich countries without direct physical occupation of their colonies. Together, these institutions have played direct and indirect roles in reversing nationalist constitutions of Latin American countries, the independence constitutions of former colonies in Asia and Africa, and the “socialist” constitutions of former Soviet bloc countries in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. It is said that around 130 national constitutions – mostly of the neocolonies – have been revised, amended, or totally replaced in the last two decades to facilitate and legitimize the neocolonial exploitation of their labor, natural resources, and economic sectors. 
These efforts are meant to provide more and new opportunities for TNCs of the richest countries to squeeze enormous profits from the neocolonies. With the raging global financial and economic crisis that slows down the rate of profits of TNCs, First World governments are expected to be more aggressive in opening up markets and economic activities, thereby increasing the external pressure on the neocolonies to dismantle remaining barriers to the free flow of trade and investment. In the case of the Philippines, these impediments are found in the 1987 Constitution. President Arroyo herself declared late last year: “We have done all the liberalization we can do within the law, so now the next liberalization has to be through the Constitution and there are now initiatives in Congress to liberalize the economic provisions… these are mostly the 60-40 restriction”.