As I See It

We can’t trust current politicians to Charter change

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The politicians are at it again. They want, again, to change the Constitution, with the government’s preliminary peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as excuse. They said the planned establishment of the new autonomous Bangsamoro, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, will need a constitutional amendment.

No need, said Malacañang and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, and government lead negotiator Marvic Leonen. They said allowing the Bangsamoro to have a “ministerial” form of government will not need a change in the Constitution.

“It’s [still] part of the Philippines [and] under the direct supervision of the President,” Deles said.

The form of government of Bangsamoro will be parliamentary while the Philippine government is presidential.

But Deles said “there’s nothing [in the Constitution] that says the form of government [of the Muslim autonomous region] should [also] be presidential.”

The Constitution did not expressly prohibit the autonomous area in Mindanao to adopt a parliamentary form of government, Deles explained. But the members of parliament must be elected by the people, she added.

Malacañang said it will not ask Congress for a constitutional amendment.

The lawmakers’ desire to change the Constitution is understandable, and we should never allow them to do that. With the establishment of Bangsamoro as excuse for Cha-cha, they will change provisions in the Constitution contrary to their interests. They will abolish term limits; a congressman can then be representative of his district for life. They will remove the provision against political dynasties and then divide the country into fiefdoms ruled by political dynasties equivalent to the lords of the medieval ages. They will increase their salaries and allowances, that is obvious. The House has already approved a bill that will make taxpayers subsidize the campaign and party development expenses of political parties. What will they do next?

And they will change our government into a parliamentary system. That will prevent the people from choosing the Chief Executive. They will have no say on who they want to rule them. Instead, it is the members of parliament (MPs) who will elect the prime minister from among themselves. You can then imagine the vote-buying that will happen in the halls of parliament. That is one reason lawmakers want a parliamentary system.

The MPs will also be the members of the Cabinet, so there will be no check and balance between the executive and legislative branches of government. So you can imagine the corruption that will be made possible. The biggest corruption cases in the world were in parliamentary governments—in Korea and Japan, for example. The prime ministers of these nations were sent to jail, but only after absconding with billions of dollars of the people’s money.

The prime minister is emboldened to steal because all the members of the legislative and executive branches are members of his party. He keeps them quiet by distributing the loot. In the Philippines there will be practically no opposition because the members of the minority will all jump into the majority party.

Not only the people but also the business community should be wary of a parliamentary system. Judging from the experience in other countries, business will serve as the milking cow of a parliamentary government. If you don’t give, your business will suffer. That means businesses will have to increase the prices of their products to recover the payola that they distribute to government officials. The people will be forced to pay more for the things that they need.

So let us not be fooled by this song-and-dance that the Constitution has to be amended to legalize the creation of the new Bangsamoro homeland.

Actually, Bangsamoro will be the old ARMM in a new costume. The territory will be the same, with a few more areas included, and the people will be the same. The same Muslim warlords will probably continue to rule their fiefdoms.

I do not know how the new peace agreement will address the lack of jobs in Mindanao. Most of the banditry in Mindanao is caused by extreme poverty. The Muslims are forced to rob and kidnap and ask for ransom for their victims as a means of feeding themselves and their families. They have no jobs. Give them jobs and the outlawry will diminish.

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It is not only rice, meat and vegetables that are being smuggled into the
Philippines in large quantities but also substandard steel angle bars from China that are used in the construction industry. (After the passage and implementation of the sin tax law, watch the increase in the smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol.)

The rampant smuggling, in container vans, of China-made steel angle bars is killing the local angle bar industry. In an industry-wide study, it is estimated that 40 percent of the local market is flooded with smuggled angle bars, mostly from China.

Construction engineers be warned: These smuggled steel bars are cheap but they are substandard. They are of poor quality and may not have the correct strength. Yet they are used in the construction of tall buildings and bridges, putting these structures at high risk of collapse. Use of these smuggled steel bars is a major risk to the safety of the public. They violate the Philippine National Standard 657:2008 for steel angle bars.

They are manufactured by backyard steel mills in China that have no quality control. When brought into the country in container vans, they are misdeclared and undervalued to evade the payment of the correct taxes and duties.

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