Another 1987 Constitution framer rejects Charter change: Not now
MANILA, Philippines — Another framer of the 1987 Constitution, economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas, is turning down moves to amend its economic provisions.
Villegas said the was no need to amend the Constitution now as efforts to revise it only veer government leaders away from more pressing national concerns such as “demonizing poverty” that has been weighing down many Filipinos.
“Right now, we should have a single-minded focus on the scandal that 21 percent of our population is living in demonizing poverty,” Villegas emphasized during Monday’s hearing of the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.
“It is a scandal because all of our neighbors in Southeast Asia have single-digit poverty incidence, and how do we approach this problem? As I see it, there are two major challenges to this administration, and I am glad that the focus, at least in theory, is being made,” he added.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Sonny Angara asked Villegas when the right time was to amend the 37-year-old Constitution. Villegas said this: When the President brings down the country’s poverty incidence to a single digit.
Villegas then quoted the economic managers of the Marcos administration, who earlier expressed confidence that they could lower the country’s poverty rate to nine percent by 2028.
“We do not need to amend the Constitution, especially as regards [to] media, advertising, education, and ownership of land at this stage of our development,” he pointed out.
Reason for low foreign investments
In a separate position paper read during the hearing, retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio identified why the Philippines obtains low foreign direct investments (FDIs).
According to him, the country has been getting low FDIs due to the high cost of power, bureaucratic regulation, and inadequate infrastructure.
“The proponents of the present people’s initiative blame the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution for the low foreign direct investments, the high unemployment, and slow economic growth of our country – these are all false reasons,” he said.
Carpio stressed that the Philippines has the highest electricity rate among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the second highest in Asia, next to Japan.
He also underscored the ease of doing business in China and Vietnam, where one only has to go to one office to obtain permits – unlike in the Philippines, where a business needs to secure permits from various offices.
Lastly, Carpio pointed out that the country’s infrastructure — such as airports, seaports, land transportation, and sea transportation — is still underdeveloped compared to neighboring countries.
The retired magistrate emphasized that the national government should focus on the “real causes” of low FDIs as the problem does not lie in the 1987 Constitution.
“We have to address the real causes. The real cause is not the Constitution; nobody cares. The president has been going abroad and has been saying: ‘I have secured almost P500 billion in foreign investment,’ and not one of those foreigners who plan to invest here required an amendment to the Constitution,” Carpio added.