Economic Cha-cha may turn into ‘bigger source of illicit money than pork barrel’ – Monsod
MANILA, Philippines — One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution rejected the fresh drive to amend economic provisions in the Charter, warning that it might become “a new and bigger source of illicit money than the pork barrel.”
Atty. Christian Monsod, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Convention, objected in particular to the proposed inclusion of the term “unless otherwise provided for by statute” in the economic provisions of the Constitution, which he claimed might open the door to “wider corruption.”
“Once that insidious insertion is accomplished, our legislators can go to rich foreign land developers or mining companies and ask by how much they wish to increase their ownership of land and companies in mining?” Monsod said during Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate constitutional amendments committee.
“Given our experience with corrupt legislators and greedy elite business on transactional legislation, are we willing to entrust our legislators with that kind of power especially since there is so much money from rich foreign investors, and the poor don’t have any?” he added.
According to Monsod, there have been six previous attempts to amend the Constitution, including changes to the economic provisions.
“Past attempts were all unsuccessful because the people perceived the articulated purposes as a smokescreen for self-serving agendas,” he said.
Both the House and the Senate have begun to discuss resolutions seeking to change the “restrictive” economic clauses of the Constitution.
In the Senate, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s Resolution No. 1 of Both Houses and Senator Richard Gordon’s Resolution No. 1 of the Senate, both of which were filed in 2019, suggested the inclusion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the Charter’s economic provisions.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, filed in the lower chamber in 2019, also adds the said phrase to the constitutional provisions that limit the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of entities based on their proportionate share in the capital.
Gatchalian, during the hearing, said amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution will help hasten the recovery of the people from the pandemic.
“The pandemic had become a game-changer. In fact, I have been monitoring our neighboring Southeast Asian countries. They now have truly overtaken us in terms of investment and job generation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gordon said he is no longer in favor of amending the Constitution since the country needs to focus on “many, many things that we need to do, not just the pandemic.”
Gordon said the Charter change “could be very divisive and could lead to other things.”
For retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna, also one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, it is “high time” that the need to amend the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Charter be addressed.
“Precisely because of the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy…I believe that addressing the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution should be a part of the solution to the impact of the pandemic to the economy,” Azcuna said.
“If we try to solve the economic impact of the pandemic without addressing the restrictive provisions of the Constitution, it’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back,” he added.
However, the retired magistrate said that changing the Charter should be limited to its economic provisions.
“The rest of the provisions of the Constitution are meant to be bedrock principles that embody the ideals of our people,” he stressed.
“So, when we proceed to amend the Constitution, we have to be very careful that we do not excise those provisions that are meant to protect people,” he added.