Don’t let politicians change our Constitution | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Don’t let politicians change our Constitution

/ 08:17 PM August 16, 2011

THREE SENATORS and a congressman were the panelists at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday: Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, and Rep. Amado Bagatsing of Manila. Senator Lacson explained the various corruption cases being investigated by the Senate, starting with the second-hand helicopters allegedly passed off as brand-new to the Philippine National Police by former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. The latter had denied ownership of the helicopters, and Senator Estrada said that if they are really not his, then Arroyo should have no problem signing a quit claim on them so that they can be donated to the PNP. The PNP will then have four second-hand helicopters for the price of two brand-new ones, a fair exchange. Up to this writing, however, there is no response from FG’s camp.

Senator Lacson also dwelt on the behest loans given by the Development Bank of the Philippines, (which led to the suicide of a DBP lawyer investigating them) as well as on other bigger financial anomalies involving government banks and other financial institutions. But it was the proposal to change the Constitution (again) that took up much of the time of the Kapihan.


Congressman Bagatsing started the ball rolling for Charter change by saying that now is the time to do it. Note that every time Congress opens, congressmen of all stripes and colors say that it is time to do a Cha-cha. Which is the reason the people don’t want it at this time. The way they are pushing for Cha-cha, the congressmen must be planning something sinister, the people suspect.

Bagatsing and other congressmen have a new argument this time: Change the Constitution to attract foreign investments. The present Constitution discourages foreign investors, they say, especially the provision on the 60-40 ownership of corporations—Filipinos must own 60 percent of the company and foreigners not more than 40 percent.


Cha-cha promoters say we are already much behind our neighbors—Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and even Vietnam—in foreign investments, and that we should try to catch up with them by opening our doors to foreign investors. How to do that? By changing our Constitution, ha, ha, ha.

The three senators said the changes should be limited to the economic provisions. The reason is obvious: the people fear the congressmen will monkey around with the Constitution. Before we know it, they would be extending their terms, removing the ban on family dynasties, and adding other provisions that would benefit them.

Senator Trillanes went further: changes should be made one provision at a time, the way the United States does it. The reason is also obvious: if the whole Charter is changed all at the same time, you never know what the congressmen, or delegates to a Constitutional Convention, will do. They can insert bad provisions along with the good. But it would be all or nothing to the people who would vote for or reject the new Constitution in a plebiscite. The people would be persuaded to vote for it, using the good provisions as bait, but inserted somewhere would be the bad provisions which would also be approved if the people voted in favor of the whole Constitution.

For one, they devoutly wish to transform our government to a parliamentary one, where one of them would be elected as the Big Cheese, the head of government, the chief executive. That was what Congressman Bagatsing pushed at the Kapihan.

But do you know what will happen in a parliamentary government? The people would be deprived of the power to vote for the chief executive. Only the members of Parliament would do that: they would select from among themselves who would be the chief executive of the whole nation. In other words, a parliamentary government would disenfranchise the people.

Parliamentary governments also brought forth the most corrupt prime ministers in Japan and Korea. And they became corrupt because they kept buying the MPs.

If we shift to a parliamentary system, candidates for chief executive will no longer buy the common man’s vote for P50 or P100 each. Instead, they will buy the votes of the 250 or so members of Parliament for P50 million or P100 million each. Now you see why congressmen want so much to shift to a parliamentary government.


Congressmen argue that investors don’t want to invest in the Philippines because of the Constitutional provisions on land ownership. Foreigners cannot own land. Where will they put their factories and offices, they ask.

Answer: Where the earlier foreign companies have put theirs. So many foreign corporations have operated in the Philippines for decades and the ban against the ownership of land by foreigners has never been a hindrance. Because while they cannot own land, they can lease. A lease of 25 years, renewable by another 25 years on a piece of land is a lifetime, it’s like already owning it.

I do not think Filipinos will look kindly at people who want to change the Constitution to allow foreigners to own land that belongs to Filipinos. Since the Spanish regime, Filipinos have fought and died to have a piece of land they can call their own. It is still happening at Hacienda Luisita and other haciendas elsewhere in the Philippines. Look at all the squatters around us. They all have no land for their homes. Now you want to open up the Philippines so foreigners can steal the land from them?

Think of it, with rich foreigners buying up what little land is left in tiny Philippines, real estate prices will rise to levels that Filipinos cannot afford. Filipinos would be landless and homeless in their own land.

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