Espinoza: The hidden agenda on Cha-cha unveiled?

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Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free ZoneFile photo

The hearing on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, at the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes on Resolution No. 6 of both Houses somehow unveiled the true intention of the much-criticized people’s initiative (PI) for Charter change (Cha-cha) and exposed our leaders’ “lack of understanding” of our existing laws.

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio told the subcommittee chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara that our country has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and in Asia. He underscored the seeming lack of understanding among national leaders on the laws on foreign ownership in the Philippines amid the PI’s move to amend the economic restrictions in the 1987 Constitution.

The proponents of the PI are blaming the alleged restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution and are using it as their campaign strategy to get the signatures of qualified voters in every congressional district with a promise supposedly of reward money.

“These are all false reasons,” claimed Justice Carpio on the PI proponents blaming the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution for the low foreign direct investments, the high unemployment, and the slow economic growth of our country.

Even without amending the Charter, our country has passed several laws to open the economy to 100 percent foreign ownership, particularly the recently amended Public Service Act and Retail Trade Liberalization Act, said Carpio.

“Our generation from coal, oil and gas plants has been opened to 100 percent foreign ownership for the longest time. The Supreme Court has also allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of power generation from dams or hydropower plants,” Carpio said.

Recently, the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy under the Marcos administration have allowed 100 percent ownership of power generation from solar and wind through a “mere implementing guideline,” he added.

Gentleman and professional as he is, Carpio, without saying that corruption (as critics brazenly say it) is the main cause of the low foreign direct investments, said “bureaucracy, high cost of power, and the infrastructure” are the real causes of the problem on low foreign investments.

“We have to address the real causes. The real cause is not the Constitution. Nobody cares,” said Carpio. “Not one of those foreign investors who plan to invest here required an amendment to our Constitution,” he said.

Carpio pointed out that the Philippines has the highest power rate in the Asean region and second to the highest power rate next to Japan.

In manufacturing, energy accounts for at least 30 percent of the cost and the Philippines cannot compete with Vietnam, which has lower power rates, he added.

Carpio said foreign investors must get permits from the barangay, mayor, national agencies, and specialized regulatory bodies in our country, while in China and Vietnam foreign investors only go to one office to secure the necessary documents.

Carpio also explained that foreign investors are not concerned about land ownership in the countries that they will invest in.

Lawyer Rene Sarmiento, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said revising Articles 12, 14 and 16 of the 1987 Constitution might set a “prairie fire” on amendments of other provisions of the Charter.

Sarmiento warned that revising the economic provisions will be a spark that can start up a prairie fire of succeeding amendments concerning political, judicial, social justice and human rights provisions.

Revising the economic provisions “will not be the Midas touch that will unlock the economic prospects and promise of the Philippines,” Sarmiento said.

Can it be said now that PI’s Cha-cha has other intentions than relaxing the already revised economic provisions of the Constitution? Is the hidden agendum about extending term limits of national elective offices?

Happy Valentine’s, everyone!

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