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As I See It

Why the Charter should not be amended

/ 12:16 AM March 05, 2014

The reply of the Supreme Court to my Feb. 24 column on a 26-year-old homicide case was published here last Monday, with no comment as requested by Theodore Te, court administrator and public information chief. Still, I cannot help but be curious about why eight Court of Appeals justices inhibited themselves from the case one after another. The eight brave and honorable justices did not say why.

Isn’t this very strange? Doesn’t it need an explanation? This has never happened before. Who or what is it in the case that made the eight justices afraid to touch it? These are not regional trial court judges but justices of the appellate court, the second highest court of the land. Its justices routinely become candidates for the Supreme Court. Why were they afraid to touch this important election-related case in Cagayan?

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The Feb. 24 column asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to look into this aspect. Shouldn’t she also be curious about this? The letter by Mr. Te offered no explanation.

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The Cha-cha train has started to choo-choo in the House of Representatives. The House committee on constitutional amendments approved the resolution overwhelmingly, 24-2, with one abstention.

This, in spite of the statement of President Aquino that Cha-cha is not a priority of his administration and the people openly against it because they are afraid of what their representatives in Congress will do to the Constitution.

The committee resolution said only the economic provisions of the Charter would be amended. Why? Didn’t the administration trumpet that the Philippine economy is going great guns, with the biggest improvement in the whole of Southeast Asia? If it is really that good, why change it at all? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The congressmen said the planned changes in the Charter are intended to encourage foreign direct investments by allowing foreigners to own land that is limited only to Filipinos and to own more than 40 percent of Philippine companies.

Foreigners are already allowed to lease or rent land here for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years for a total of 50 years, without violating the Constitution. That is almost like owning the land.

Opening our land to foreign ownership would be similar to the invasion of the American South by carpetbaggers after the Civil War. Or like the immigrants from Europe grabbing the land of the native Americans. What that will do is make moneyed foreigners grab land that should rightfully belong only to Filipinos. What that will do is make Philippine land beyond the reach of poor Filipinos. That is why we have so many squatters. What that will do is make the big landowners, already rich, even richer. What that will do is to make the beneficiaries of land reform desert their farms, sell these, and crowd into the already overcrowded cities. What that will do is open up our natural resources to foreign exploitation.

There is extreme land hunger in the Philippines. Filipinos will kill and die for land. Philippine history is replete with revolts and rebellions by land-hungry Filipinos wanting to own the farms they till. Even now, they still kill to be able to own land. That is why the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was enacted. Now our honorable congressmen will amend the Constitution to open up the Philippines to foreign ownership?

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If we want to encourage foreign investors to come here, the thing to do is reduce our electricity rate which is the highest in Asia, next only to Japan, a highly developed country. At least a third of a manufacturer’s investment goes to power. High power rates make him uncompetitive in the international market. Why would foreigners put up factories here when power rates are so high? Our neighbors, like Indonesia and Malaysia, subsidize power for consumers. Here, the government taxes it excessively. Look at your bill and see all the different taxes that the government adds to your power consumption.

Congressmen say the planned Charter amendments will only add the phrase “or as may be provided by law” to the Constitution articles concerning the national economy and patrimony, education, science, technology, arts, culture and sports and general provisions.

That is even worse. Then the Constitution would be at the mercy of our honorable members of Congress. And as we have seen in the pork barrel scam, they cannot be trusted. With that phrase, “or as may be provided by law,” all that Congress has to do is pass a law that would defeat the intent of the Constitution. One after another, the economic provisions would have that added phrase, and the whole Constitution would be worthless.

Congressmen say only the economic provisions would be touched. Tell that to the Marines. Once they open the Constitution to amendments, there is no telling what they will do. Term limits can be eliminated. The antidynasty provision will surely be removed. Salary limits of members of Congress would be lifted. They can sell us down the river without us realizing it.

Sure, the amendments will be subjected to plebiscites. But we have seen how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the voters. That is why we have so many members of Congress who do not deserve to be there.

The safest thing to do is not to touch the Constitution until the present breed of politicians has passed away.

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TAGS: As I See It, charter change, House of Representatives, neal h. cruz, opinion, Supreme Court
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