Cha-cha of economic provisions a smokescreen for political agenda – IBON

March 14, 2023

by IBON Foundation

The House of Representatives (HOR) last week approved Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 6 calling for a constitutional convention to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution and today approved House Bill (HB) 7352 detailing its implementation. Proponents keep saying that their intent is mainly to rewrite the Charter’s supposedly restrictive economic provisions.

Research group IBON however says that this is just a smokescreen for the self-serving political agenda of the Marcos family and of legislators. Changing the economic provisions will not develop the economy and too few legislators even made the effort to update their antiquated notions about foreign investment.

IBON surmises that the overriding compulsion of Pres. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr to change the 1987 Constitution is to remove what is arguably the most institutionalized counteraction to the dictatorship of his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The 1987 Constitution was not just a wholesale repudiation of the Marcosian 1973 Constitution but a radical effort to remove all vestiges of the Marcos dictatorship and prevent its repeat.

Among others, Martial Law so abused by the current president’s father is more limited in duration and effect. The supremacy of civilian authority over the military is buttressed. Even the Supreme Court has greater powers to review this and other official acts for grave abuse of discretion. Notably, the sovereignty of the people is bolstered and legally entrenched in so many ways.

Charter change impelled by the Marcos family’s self-serving motives will erode the post-dictatorship democratic and pro-people character of the Constitution. The Marcoses’ motives coincides with amendments already proposed by cha-cha proponents.

Self-serving political elites and dynasties will make it easier for themselves to stay in power such as with term extensions, lifting of term limits, and removing provisions that might potentially be used against them. Concluding authoritarian trends of recent decades, cha-cha will also restrict the exercise of civil and political rights and narrow the scope of sovereignty as residing in the people. These will increase the grip of traditional politicians (trapo) on political power.

The claim that amending the Constitutional protections on the economy will spur economic development is a camouflage for these. The so-called arguments made are all weak, illogical and ill-informed, said IBON, and few legislators even bothered to attend committee hearings on them. Liberalizing to foreign investment will not result in the structural transformation of the economy that is so urgent and needed.

IBON also recalled economic cha-cha proposals replacing important social justice and equity provisions with empty notions of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. Industrialization, agrarian reform and economic independence have also been proposed to be removed. In so many ways, the government is disarmed from developing the economy for the common good and instead turns this over to profit-seeking foreign and domestic interests.

The Marcos Jr administration and Congress is dominated by the supermajority with Duterte, Arroyo, Estrada and oligarch allies. Their Charter change scheme is the largest effort since the Marcos dictatorship to sabotage and profiteer on Philippine democracy, said IBON.