Charter Change: The
Are the proposed
amendments to the Constitution in the interest of the country as
Malacañang says they are? Bulatlat interviewed Bayan Muna (People
First) Rep. Teddy Casiño, one of the opponents of Charter change, for a
glimpse of how those in the negative side of the matter view the issue.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
Bayan Muna Rep.
stresses a point at a House session
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been
pushing for Charter change even while she was continuing the term of
ousted President Joseph Estrada.
In 2005, the issue of Charter change
became more urgent to Macapagal-Arroyo as she faced intensifying calls for
her ouster or resignation from office on issues of alleged election fraud,
corruption and human rights violations and the imposition of policies
described by cause-oriented groups as “anti-national and anti-people.”
Late last year, Macapagal-Arroyo formed a Consultative Commission to draft
amendments to the 1987 Constitution as a supposed means to stave off the
crisis generated by calls for her to vacate Malacañang.
The Consultative Commission – led by
former University of the Philippines (UP) president Dr. Jose Abueva –
submitted its proposed amendments to the Constitution on Dec. 16, 2005.
Malacañang praised the Consultative Commission for a job described as well
done and called the draft amendments a step toward “repairing” the
The farthest-reaching amendments concern
the national economy and patrimony. There are proposed changes allowing
the State to enter into co-production, joint venture, or
production-sharing agreements with corporations fully owned (no longer
40-percent owned) by foreigners; as well as permitting corporations fully
owned by foreigners to lease alienable lands of the public domain, but
permits only Filipino citizens to own these. Corporations fully owned by
foreigners would also be allowed to do business in advertising and media.
Citizenship restrictions on franchise and thus ownership of public
utilities are to be removed.
There would also be a shift in the form of
government from presidential to parliamentary. Macapagal-Arroyo, whom
former President Fidel V. Ramos had earlier called on to rule as a
“transition president” until 2007, will be allowed to stay in office until
2010. Elections scheduled for 2007 are to be cancelled.
What do these have in store for the
Philippines? Are these amendments in the interest of the country as
Malacañang says they are?
interviewed Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño, one of the
opponents of Charter change, for a glimpse of how those in the negative
side of the matter view the issue. Below are excerpts from the interview:
How do you think the economy would be
affected by the proposed amendment allowing the State to enter into
co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with
corporations fully owned by foreigners?
Basically, this provision is aimed at
opening up sectors that have been previously reserved for locals and
particularly the state to exploit, namely energy resources, forest
resources, mineral resources (including oil and gas), water resources.
The initial impact is intensified
extraction activities on these sectors especially by foreign, monopoly
corporations leading to greater siphoning off of the national patrimony.
Policy-wise, it will further stunt industrialization because instead of
being used to develop local industry, our resources will most likely be
exported to serve the needs of other countries.
Is there any means for foreign-owned corporations to get around the
proposed amendment allowing corporations fully owned by foreigners to
lease alienable lands of the public domain, but permits only Filipino
citizens to own these, i.e. any possible legal manipulations like using
Filipino citizens/companies as dummies?
In fact, that is already being done at
present, much more when the Constitution formally recognizes the right of
foreign corporations to lease lands. What will most likely happen, and
this is in the draft amendments proposed by the House Committee on
Constitutional Amendments, is that foreigners will be allowed to own
residential and industrial lands only. Agricultural and forest lands will
still be reserved for Filipinos but at the rate these lands are being
converted to residential and industrial areas, the distinctions become
How could the economy be possibly affected by proposed provisions
allowing 100 percent foreign ownership in advertising and mass media?
Of course multinational advertising and
media corporations will most likely use this opportunity to gobble up
local firms. This means more profits going to foreigners rather than
But more than this, this will allow an
even greater influx of Western, consumerist, often decadent cultural
values in the mass media. It will be cultural imperialism on turbo-boost.
In your opinion, is the public going to be served well by the
proposed amendment removing citizenship restrictions on franchises and
thus ownership of public utilities?
No. Our experience with the
privatization of public utilities, like water, power and oil in the 1990s
proved that what is good for foreign investors is bad for the consumers.
The same holds true for many other countries that have opened up their
utilities sectors to foreign capital. Public utilities are natural
monopolies that are vested with high national interest. It is always good
policy to reserve this for citizens.
Could you give the main reasons for the wide opposition to the
change in the structure of government from presidential to parliamentary?
Firstly, it fails to address the
fundamental issue of who wields power and how this power is used by the
ruling elite to benefit themselves, and their local and foreign bosses. It
will not cure the problem of bureaucrat capitalism and political patronage
that are at the heart of the rotten political system. Without a radical
change in the political culture and the entrenched power structures in
society, a shift to a parliamentary-unicameral system―and worse, a
parliamentary-unicameral-federal―will further strengthen and consolidate
the power of the traditional political dynasties, warlords, reactionary
parties and power brokers.
To be more specific, a shift to a unicameral-parliamentary system
abolishes or greatly weakens the system of checks and balances between the
executive and the legislative and between the upper and lower houses of
Congress. It also holds the chief executive hostage to the whims and
caprices of Parliament, since he can be removed anytime through a vote of
no-confidence. This opens the door for more corruption, abuse and plunder
of the national coffers.
In other words, the so-called “system change” is merely cosmetic. They’re
replacing a house of crooks with a parliament of crooks.
Do you agree with those who see the proposed no-election scenario as
a tactic to prevent the unseating of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?
The immediate objective is to give GMA a
new lease on life or at least enough room to maneuver herself for a
graceful exit come 2007. That in itself makes the project reprehensible.
But that is nothing. The more strategic objective is to further strengthen
and consolidate the bankrupt political system and pass this off as a
change in the system to make it acceptable to the people, who are the
system’s victims. The traditional ruling elites want to have their cake
and eat it too. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
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