Amending or changing the 36-year-old Charter is long overdue
Sharp Edges

Amending or changing the 36-year-old Charter is long overdue 

/ 05:00 AM January 30, 2024

The confrontational divide between Senators and congressmen over amending the 1987 Constitution is dishing out venomous wordplay on the political arena. Central to this is PIRMA’s “peoples initiative” that gathers 12 percent of the total voting population, with each legislative district by at least three percent of registered voters. Organizers say they can get enough signatures in the 254 districts in the next three months.

The Senators issued a strongly worded manifesto against, saying “the country must guard against any sinister and underhanded attempt to change the Constitution by exploiting our democratic processes under the guise of people’s initiative.

Then accusations floated against House Speaker Martin Romualdez as the one behind and financing PIRMA with P20M per district, coming from his cousin and President’s sister Imee Marcos, and other senators. This was flatly denied by Romualdez calling it baseless and speculative. He reiterated that the House of Representatives has already committed to support Senate’s Resolution of Both Houses 6 on amendments to specific economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution and they are awaiting Zubiri’s actions.


Last week, President Marcos met separately with the Senators and Congressmen during the supposed Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting in what many allege as a brewing “legislative crisis”.  But friction among legislators still simmers.


To senators, this people’s initiative calling for a unicameral assembly is a doomsday killer. The fear that this initiative of legislative districts, controlled by congressmen, may eventually lead to a change from the present presidential-bicameral to a presidential unicameral system.

But come to think of it, have we asked ourselves, are we happy with this 1987 Constitution that has been around for thirty-six years?   This post EDSA and Anti-Marcos charter was implemented by Presidents Cory, Ramos, Estrada, GMA, Pnoy, Duterte and now the Sr. Marcos’ son BBM.

After Edsa, did we stop graft and corruption in government? Or made it even profitable and unchecked?  Did this Constitution and the numerous ruling Congresses address the issue of “political dynasties”?

Are we happy with electing our political leaders thru nationwide popular vote, which, cluttered our Senate with actors, comedians, and unqualified people? Are we happy that we voted a popular actor as President but did not last three years on his term?   Are we happy that one candidate must spend half a billion pesos to get elected to the Senate? Are we happy with their P 12B new Senate building with four towers, 11 floors each in Fort Bonifacio soon to open this July?  Are we happy with legislators getting their “pet projects” yearly from the national budget (P200M or over for congressmen and P2B per senator)?

Are we happy that present devolution in government incapacitated national officials (during the Covid-19 crisis, DOH and DSWD only has control on regional offices, without local officials hence “ayuda” and vaccination distribution went to LGU)? Are we happy that the national government has no control over prices and goods because public markets, malls and stores are under the mayors? Are we happy that for the past years, all foreign investments in this country are deferred to our richest people in accordance with the 60-40 provisions? Is this 1987 Constitution ready for the ever-changing world of cybercrime and digital upheavals?

All over Asia, our neighbors are already unicameral or parliamentary in their systems of government, all able to respond quickly to the changing economic times.  Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan. Communist Vietnam, Junta-controlled Burma and Laos are unicameral. Indonesia and South Korea have presidential systems of government like us but with unicameral legislature. Indonesia calls it “presidential with parliamentary characteristics”. On the other hand, Cambodia, with its King, calls itself a “parliamentary constitutional monarchy”.).


Do we now understand that international investors are avoiding our country because of our “confusing economic policies”? Our bicameral system is like having two sets of board of directors in a company. Investors will have to negotiate separately with these two sets before they do business. And what about the devolved and now untouchable LGU” s that has continually harassed investors and even the national government for so many problems, e.g.  permits, traffic fees, ordinances?

In ASEAN countries, we are sixth in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) inflows last year with $9.2 Billion dollars.  Singapore was highest at $141B, Indonesia at $21.9B, Vietnam at $17,9B, Malaysia- $17.9B and Thailand -$ 10B. If we do the right thing, DTI secretary Alfredo Pascual believes we could be number 2 in FDI in 2028 or the end of the Marcos administration.

This is like shooting the moon considering our chaotic government processes. If we are to achieve true prosperity for the economy and the people, a real systems change must happen.  Honestly, the idea of amending the 36-year-old Constitution is long overdue.  Everybody recognizes that this Cory Constitution was drafted mainly to prevent the emergence of another dictator like former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.  It was made to create checks and balances that effectively weakened future leaders, and this brings us to our serious problems today. 

We have continued to ignore these glaring issues on the Charter in the past years, but its effects are now punishing our economy and ultimately, the public suffers more.  My senator friends will not like it, but real public clamor for an immediate amendment or even system change, particularly, from presidential-bicameral to unicameral or parliamentary, is getting stronger among our people.

Are senior citizens entitled to 12 percent VAT discount on medicines?

I have been getting complaints from senior citizens who regularly patronize the top two drug stores in the country, Mercury Drug and Watsons and perhaps, they will react immediately to these concerns. My senior citizen friends showed me official receipts indicating that their medicine purchases did not include the 12 percent VAT exemption.

If true, this should not happen.” Under Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, elderly Filipinos aged 60 and above are entitled to a 20 percent discount and exempted from the value added tax (VAT) on applicable goods and services for their exclusive use”. These privileges apply to both cash and credit card payments”. The law covers Medicines such as generic and branded, vitamins and mineral supplements (with doctor’s prescription).

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So there, as clean as a whistle, so that all drug stores and senior citizens will be clear on this issue.

TAGS: charter change, opinion, Sharp Edges

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