Tell it to SunStar: Last opportunity to reform the 1987 Constitution

Tell it to SunStar
Tell it to SunStarSunStar file photo

By Joseph Solis Alcayde Alberici, constitutional reform advocate and professional teacher

There is a current People’s Initiative drive and constitutional reform paid advertisement from a certain law firm, with the ultimate goal of amending the Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution stating that the House of Representatives and Senate should vote jointly for any future constitutional amendments and revisions. But the problem is there isn’t yet an enabling law for People’s Initiative, so their moves to gather 7.8 million signatures nationwide that are done in a sinister manner of paying AICS (Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation) and Tupad (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced) beneficiaries P100 before they sign People’s Initiative forms reek of unethical travesty to the constitutional reform process.

The whole idea of amending or revising the 1987 Constitution is a commendable idea and should have been done periodically, but it never happened because constitutional reform advocates couldn’t respect the whole process of amending and revising the charter, and many politicians, particularly senators, have their own vested interests in keeping the 1987 Constitution fully intact because any tinkering it may affect their chances of becoming presidents and vice presidents someday. There are some 1987 Constitution framers like Christian Monsod and Hilario Davide who aren’t open to the idea of incremental constitutional amendments, out of their nostalgic reasons, where amending the Constitution is tantamount for them to admitting how flawed the framing process in the 1986 Constitutional Commission was and how unelected they were as members of the said constitutional commission.

When it comes to timing to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution under the PBBM administration, this year 2024 is the best time to pursue any constitutional amendments or revisions because after the 2025 mid-term elections, people including myself would thumb down any proposals to merely amend the Constitution because politician proponents would use it as vehicles to perpetuate themselves in power. 2024 should be the pinnacle point of the current PBBM administration where he could pursue necessary structural economic and political reforms, including reforming the 1987 Constitution.

There are many provisions in the 1987 Constitution that need to be amended like repealing the 60 percent Filipino equity ownership requirement for constitutionally restricted industries, shifting from unitary-presidential to federal-parliamentary system, and the officialization of regional languages and Spanish.

When it comes to repealing the 60 percent Filipino equity ownership requirement, it is important that our country must apply the so-called Golden Rule when it comes to attracting foreign investments where our laws need to be favorable to them like shielding them from bad business practices of Filipino corporations of stealing the intellectual property of foreign corporations under joint venture ownership arrangements. Allowing 100 percent foreign equity ownership in real estate will allow more foreign digital nomads and retirees to come into the country and live permanently because giving them full ownership of land would entice them to put up businesses for job generation for local Filipinos because as full foreign landowner, they could use their land properties as collaterals in local commercial banks for capital.

Shifting from unitary-presidential to federal-parliamentary would remove the so-called divisive separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches and would make the government consensus-driven, not adversarial-driven, and regions and provinces would have more sway in deciding their policies in their jurisdictions without national government’s interference.

Officializing Philippine regional languages and Spanish would ensure that language diversity in our country is maintained by allowing Filipino citizens to be entitled to have their pertinent documents written in Cebuano or Spanish or have court proceedings to be in the language fully understood by both respondents and plaintiffs. It will compel the government through the Department of Education to offer 12-year language courses in Philippine languages and Spanish in the basic education.

I hope that constitutional reform proponents respect the entire process of amending and revising the 1987 Constitution and refrain from bribing individuals into signing a proposed unconstitutional revision of Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution. They should fully inform the people what their true motives are for the constitutional reform like educating on the pros and cons of constitutional reform in the grassroots level, not in an asinine negative advertisement against the 1987 Constitution on mainstream media.

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