The devil is in the detail for Charter Change

Amending a constitution of a country is never an easy task. So its not surprising this study in evaluating this option even for economic reasons alone is a difficult if not impossible task. Its interesting we already had 3 changes with the current one only 26 years old. Like a young man with the same age, we need to give it time to mature and stand the test of time.  The more important need is to limit the opportunity of amending the constitution without any political motives present. This risk may be enough incentive not to make it at all in the first place.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

September 18, 2012

Differences stall Charter change study

THE REVIEW of the merits of amending the Constitution is still unfinished, held up by vastly differing views on the controversial issue, an economic manager said.

“The study is not yet finished. The consultations are ongoing,” Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing on Monday.

“It’s difficult because there are opposing opinions within and among industries and business groups. Some say it’s time, some say it’s not yet time,” he explained.

The economic cluster of the Cabinet, headed by Mr. Purisima, was tasked by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III to review the need and implications of revising the 1987 Constitution. They were initially given two weeks to complete the study, but the deadline already passed on Aug. 15.

The contentious foreign ownership cap is one of the focal points of the review but other provisions could yet be included.

“There is no limit to the study,” Mr. Purisima said.

Specifically, Articles 12, 14 and 16 of the Constitution are under scrutiny, he reiterated.

Article 12 lays down the law on the national economy and patrimony. Among its salient features are that it limits the “exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources” to corporations that are at least 60% owned by Filipinos.

The ownership of land and public utilities are also limited to citizens of the Philippines or corporations that are at least 60% owned by Filipinos.

“The participation of foreign investors in the governing body of any public utility enterprise shall be limited to their proportionate share in its capital, and all the executive and managing officers of such corporation or association must be citizens of the Philippines,” it adds.

Article 12 also grants Congress the power to reserve “certain areas of investments” to corporations that are at least 60% owned by Filipinos “when the national interest dictates.”

Meanwhile, Article 14 governs education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports. It imposes the same 60% ownership limit on educational institutions, other than those established by religious groups and mission boards. Congress is also allowed to require “increased Filipino equity participation.”

Article 16, lastly, sets ownership caps on mass media and advertising.

Only corporations, cooperatives and associations wholly owned and managed by Filipinos can own and manage mass media, it states.

The advertising industry — “impressed with public interest and shall be regulated by law for the protection of consumers and the promotion of the general welfare” — is limited to corporations at least 70% owned by Filipinos.

All executives and managing officers of these entities must be citizens of the Philippines.

The touchy issue of Charter change was revived when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile identified it as part of the agenda at the start of the third regular session of the 15th Congress.

The revisions could give “more flexibility in the ownership of certain industries, particularly those that are involved in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources,” Mr. Enrile had said.

Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. concurred, pushing for the easing of “restrictive economic provisions” to bring in foreign capital and technology that could spur employment and growth in the Philippines.

The review harks a softening of the stance of Mr. Aquino against Charter change.

The President earlier stood by the Constitution drafted during the term of his late mother, former President Corazon C. Aquino. He claimed that possible changes could expose the Constitution to a raft of amendments, delaying economic growth even more.

Last year, Congress called for a bicameral constituent assembly to review the Constitution. This took a backseat, though, as legislators took on the five-month impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona that only ended in May.

Charter change has been proposed as early as the 1990s, but these efforts never prospered over fears that public officials would use it as an opportunity to extend their terms of office. — Diane Claire J. Jiao

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Differences stall Charter change study&id=58685

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