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The draft Constitution is terrible

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Calixto V. Chikiamco-125

Introspective

The draft Constitution is terrible

Scratch that; the draft Constitution drawn up by the Puno Consultative Commission, is uber-terrible.

The draft Constitution is a 102-page boondoggle of a document. It’s verbose whereas good Constitutions are short and simple, just declaring the fundamental, nearly immutable law of the land. This draft Constitution, on the other hand, was probably crafted by lawyers with a diarrhea of words that is designed to elicit litigation.

For example, it says that a candidate for President must be “a college graduate or its equivalent.” (Section 2, Article VIII). Not only is this provision elitist (former Senators Serge Osmeña and the late Blas Ople did not bother to get college degrees.), but what the heck is “equivalent.”? I can mention more examples, but I don’t want to take up more space to belabor an obvious point.

The authors of the draft Constitution also love bureaucracy. The draft Constitution creates four High Courts as opposed to only one, which we have at present: A Federal Supreme Court, Federal Constitutional Court, Federal Administrative Court, and Federal Electoral Court, each with a Chief Justice. (More cushy jobs for lawyers.)

Congress will have 36 Senators (two from each Federal Region) and a maximum of 400 representatives in the House.

Each of the 16 Federal Regions will have 16 Regional Assemblies and Regional Governors for the Federal Regions, in addition to the current Local Government Units under the Local Government Code, plus the Federal Regions of the Bangsamoro and the Cordilleras.

There will also be six Constitutional Commissions, namely, Federal Civil Service Commission, Federal Commission on Elections, Federal Commission on Audit, Federal Commission on Human Rights, Federal Ombudsman, and Federal Competition Commission.

Obviously, the authors of the draft Constitution love bureaucracy, but they failed to state how the government will pay for the added bureaucracy. Philippine Institute of Development economist Chat Manasan estimates that P55 billion would be needed for the Federal government that the draft Constitution envisions. I frankly think that’s even an underestimate. No matter. The added bureaucracy and Federal officials mean only one thing: more taxes from the people.

There are already popular complaints about the added taxes and inflationary effects from the recently passed TRAIN 1 (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, Package 1). This doesn’t seem to bother the Puno Consultative Commission. Basta! It will have its bureaucratic monster even if this represents an added burden on the Filipino people.

However, the gross failure of the authors of the draft Constitution is that they failed to explain what has changed about government and bureaucracy for them to create this Federal monstrosity. Filipinos already experience the corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence of the present bureaucracy and dysfunctions of government institutions, from dealing with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to riding in Department of Transportation-managed MRT.

Instead of providing a solution to this problem, however, the draft Constitution wants to multiply these government afflictions on the people. It’s pure sadism to inflict on the Filipino people multiples of the same — more taxes but the same corruption and inefficiency multiplied by 16 Federated regions plus all the other additional officials!

Perhaps the Filipino people will be willing to pay more taxes for more government if the draft Constitution will lead to a more vigorous economy that generates more investments and jobs.

However, on the contrary, the vision of the draft Constitution is backward looking on the economy. It is highly protectionist and basically retains the foreign ownership restrictions in the present Constitution.

constitutionLet me quote the press statement of the Foundation for Economic Freedom:

“We, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, are seriously concerned with the proposed Constitution drafted by the Puno Consultative Committee.

“The draft Constitution retains all the restrictive and protectionist provisions of the current 1987 Constitution and the past Constitutions. These provisions have been responsible for the country’s historically inferior growth relative to the economic aspirations of the broader Filipino population and relative to the country’s neighbors. These have sent strong signals to foreign investors that they are not welcome to invest in the Philippines to create jobs, transfer technology, provide healthy competition, and improve the lives of Filipinos.

“While we acknowledge that the draft Constitution allows Congress to change the voting capital requirement and other requirements under certain conditions, the draft Constitution does not fulfill the change that President Duterte promised. Instead, it retains the present restrictive provisions in the current Constitution and signals that change will only happen if and when Congress sees fit. In the case of the exploration and development of natural resources, the draft is even more restrictive in casting doubt on the possibility of 100% ownership under a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).

“We propose that the default provisions not be restrictions but allow Congress to regulate the entry of foreign investments as conditions, including public welfare and national interest, warrant. Through this suggestion, we are following the practice of other countries which do not put such restrictions in their Constitutions but legislate them, allowing for flexible responses to changing conditions. Moreover, by removing these restrictions in the fundamental law of the land, we are signaling that change has happened and we are open to investment, foreign or local.

“We find these restrictions out of step and out of sync with reality. For example, the limitation on ownership of mass media entirely to Filipino citizens seems irrelevant in the age of the Internet when Filipinos consume their mass media from foreign companies, such as Facebook, Netflix, CNN, Twitter, and Youtube.

“We also contend that provisions mandating preference to Filipinos in the “grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony” may be interpreted as keeping out foreigners to promote insularity, protectionism and worse, mediocrity and monopoly. The draft Constitution does not project the Philippines as a modernizing country embracing the future but rather projects it as backward-looking, anti-modernist, and protectionist.” [The original FEF statement quoted by Mr. Chikiamco covered several articles and sections of the draft Constitution but these were omitted owing to space constraints. — Ed.]

The outdated, backward-looking vision of the draft Constitution is also repeated in the sections on land reform. The authors of the draft Constitution seem to be Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the entire period when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was enacted soon after the passage of the 1987 Constitution and its successor, CARP-ER or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms.

Don’t the authors know that despite having the most successful land distribution program in the world (the World Bank states that about 80% of targeted lands have been distributed), agricultural productivity remains low and our farmers are still mired in rural poverty? Yet the draft Constitution authors enshrine agrarian reform in one section of the draft Constitution, as if it’s still the answer to the problem of social inequity and rural poverty.

In fact, the draft Constitution is full of social justice gobbledygook, from land reform to housing and urban land reform (the latter section could be interpreted to mean encouraging squatting.)

Yet there’s no modernizing vision: how the country can modernize its politics, economics, and culture and in the process increase the productivity of its economy, which can help pay for the added bureaucracy and Constitutionally-mandated social justice programs. It’s all about outdated, anachronistic provisions and backward-looking vision.

The draft Constitution is full of pretense of being progressive. For example, it supposedly has a self-executing provision prohibiting political dynasties, but only bans relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity. That means uncles, cousins, and nephews can hold political offices at the same time.

I could go on and on about the defects of the draft Constitution.

However, recently, the Puno Consultative Commission (well, okay, maybe just the spokesman Ding Generoso) appointed Asec Mocha Uson to explain Federalism and the draft Constitution. We saw the video. ’Nuff said.

 

Calixto V. Chikiamco is a board director of the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.

idea.introspectiv@gmail.com

www.idea.org.ph





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