Charter change and further economic liberalization

July 13, 2012. Once again, our politicians and their patrons are peddling the lie that the only path to the economic salvation of the Philippines is through more intensified foreign intervention in the economy and a more intensified liberalization of “key industries”. It is almost like routine, from the administration of President Fidel Ramos, to Joseph Estrada, to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III, every year or two, the leaders of both Houses of Congress peddle the proposal of changing the economic provisions of the Constitution in order to liberalize the remaining sectors of the economy with “nationalist restrictions.” True enough, faithful to tradition, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte comes out today, a few weeks before the State of the Nation Address and the opening of the last session of Congress, to promote “charter change.”

This begs the question, is “free market” liberalization the only path to economic prosperity? A brief look at the economic history of today’s prosperous and developed nations will prove that the path to economic prosperity is paved by national industrialization with strong basis in state intervention through regulation and subsidies, and protectionism–quite the opposite of the neoliberal dogma most of these countries now peddle and force upon the throats of the people of the “third world.”

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Spot report #2 on Con-Con deliberations

Yesterday, I attended the meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments on the proposed Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution. (Read my spot report on the Aug. 26 meeting here)

The Committee amended the proposed measure calling for Con-Con by postponing the elections for the convention’s delegates from May 2010 (to coincide with the national elections), to October 2010 (which may coincide with the barangay elections). The exact date stipulated for the holding of the Con-Con elections is October 25, 2010. One representative who used to oppose Con-Con now approves of it because of this amendment. She claims it now clears the doubts on the political maneuverings that may happen in the Con-Con elections because it will be held after the term of Pres. Arroyo.

I think, however, it’s just a way for the Arroyo administration to reassure themselves that they have another elections to maneuver, in the likely chance that they lose the national elections on May. The Con-Con elections will be vulnerable, then, to the political manipulation of those who will lose the May 2010 national elections.

On another note, the Committee also agreed, at least in principle, to include sectoral representatives in the election of delegates. The proponent, Rep. Erin Tanada, proposed the following sectors: women, youth, workers, farmers, indigenous people, and fisherfolk. But it remained a proposal, since the congressmen couldn’t agree definitely on the specifics of the proposal. The discussion on which sectors are to be included and how many representatives will be elected from each sector, was postponed for the plenary session.

The Committee also agreed to put in a time limit of one year for the Con-Con to complete its task of drafting a new constitution. The time limit, however, does not seem to be a limit because some of the members clarified that regardless of the clause, the convention can ask for an extension from the Congress, or something to that effect.

Lastly, the Committee agreed that it shall be the Supreme Court Chief Justice who will preside over the first sessions of the Con-Con, in preparation of, and prior to the elections of the Con-Con leadership.

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Spot report #1 on Con-Con deliberations

One of my tasks in Batasan is to attend committee hearings and other functions in Congress when Kabataan Rep. Palatino has another Congress function to attend.

Yesterday, since Mong was at the hearing of the Special Committee on Bases Conversion regarding the North Rail project, I attended one of the hearings of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments regarding the proposed Constitutional Convention (Con-Con). As it appears right now, administration congressmen are not acting on the controversial HR 1109 calling for a Constituent Assembly.

They are now focused on drafting a bill allowing Congress to call for a Con-Con to revise the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It will be a consolidation of a handful of other measures on Con-Con proposed by different congressmen. As proposed, the members of the Constitutional Convention will be elected during next year’s national elections.

There had been meetings before, and much of the time was spent on debates with regard to the inclusion of the phrase “voting separately” which specifies how majority of the House and the Senate would approve the calling for Con-Con. Eventually, administration congressmen in the Committee voted to strike it off and leaving the “vagueness” of the present Constitution as is. Only Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza voted against it in yesterday’s deliberation.

Some of my other notes:

  • Some congressmen, notably Rep. Erin Tanada and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares (not part of the Committee, but attended the hearing nonetheless) want party-list representation in Con-Con. The rest of the administration congressmen didn’t want it. Further discussion about it was postponed so that they can “study the proposal” more. But I personally think it was either they want to ignore the proposal or they want to railroad the approval of the bill ASAP.
  • It was agreed upon by everyone that those who will file their candidacies for the Convention will be “automatically resigned” from their political parties. Same goes for government employees in GOCC’s (Government Owned and Controlled Corporations), members of the military, etc.
  • Delegates will disqualified to run in the elections right after the Con-Con, and are disqualified from being appointed in any government agency one year after the Con-Con.
  • Per diem allowance of the delegates will be P2,000 plus reimbursement of transportation expenses
  • The next Committee meeting will be on September 8

There you go. I’ll try to make this spot reporting and other commentaries on Congress matters more regular, so that you may also be updated on the goings-on in Batasan.

Law students against Cha-cha

We, law students from UP, UST, Lyceum, San Beda, PUP, Arellano, and San Sebastian, united by common ideals, do strongly voice out our opposition to charter change. As students of the law, we recognize the supremacy of the Constitution, the highest law of the land. On it hinges the legality or illegality of all other laws.

We also recognize that it is actually us, the people of the Philippines, who are the true authors of the Constitution, and as such, any move to amend or revise the Constitution should respect the will of the people of the Philippines.

We agree that the law only authorizes three methods of changing the charter, and that it is the intent of the framers of the Constitution that any amendments or revisions must still be ratified by the citizens, thus giving to the citizens a very important role in shaping the highest law of the land.

We generally have nothing against charter change, since it is provided for in the Constitution itself. What we are against is the suspect timing of such a move, which we believe is motivated by the political agenda of those involved, especially the ones who vehemently push for the approval of a Constituent Assembly.

We believe that all this commotion dwells too much on the procedural aspect of charter change, under the assumption that a Constituent Assembly is perfectly legal. Yet any move to change the charter should be done with pure intentions, for the greater good of the republic.

Charter change should not be done to prolong the terms of those currently in power, nor to prostitute our natural resources to the highest bidder, nor to grant absolute power to certain individuals or groups who have had a history of wielding their power for their own personal benefit.

We, the law students of UP, UST, Lyceum, San Beda, PUP, Arellano, and San Sebastian, have come together as an alliance, opposing vehemently all moves to change the Constitution, until such time that the people of the Philippines deem it right. And until then, we shall stand guard over the liberties of the Filipino people, defending those who are ignorant of the law from those who seek to take advantage of them.

Students walk out of classes vs. charter change

As much as I wanted to join the walk-out, I was apprehensive about missing my one class that afternoon. Excessive absences was, after all, a contributory reason as to why I had bad grades last semester. I was supposed to just pass by the AS Lobby and deliver a solidarity speech before going to class in Malcolm Hall.

When I got to the historic lobby, however, the entire hall was full of students in red shirts. A lot of them were new faces, freshmen perhaps. It’s a sight I’m honestly not used to seeing during regular mobilizations in UP. And it was enough to agitate me to join. Unfortunately, it was one of those days when I forget to bring my camera. I’ve lost the habit of always tagging it along with me wherever I go. In any case, posted below are pictures and a video coverage done by Bulatlat. There’s also a slide show of photos, at their site.

Here are photos from the simultaneous mobilization in Baguio, where hundreds of students also walked out of classes to protest against Gloria Arroyo’s charter change attempt. Photos by Ak Riva. Student groups from Cebu and Davao also participated in the nationwide protest action of the youth.

Perhaps it’s been said over and over again–Gloria Arroyo’s charter change does not address the plethora of problems that confront the youth. It does not provide a solution to the rising cost of education in the country, nor does it provide solutions to the crises that besiege not only the youth but different sectors of Philippine society. It even worsens the present conditions by intensifying the policies that have made the lives of Filipinos worse over the past decade, and, as I’ve mentioned, it only further intensifies the local and foreign exploitation of our national industries and our natural resources.

For me these are stronger reasons for us to reject, not only the current attempt at charter change, but any future proposals to liberalize the economic provisions of our constitution. I’m sure, even if we do have new leaders by next year, extraneous political forces will continue to lobby for these changes. Sure, we want Arroyo out by 2010, we want to select new leaders perhaps. But more to the desire to have an elections by 2010, we should also strive to preserve our sovereignty and dignity as a people.

Cha-cha beyond term extension motives

Changing the constitution of different countries worldwide has been in the agenda of the lobbying efforts of multinational financial institutions and corporations the past years, in an effort to open up their national patrimonies and natural resources to foreign exploitation and ownership.

If you think it’s all about the personal and political motives of our politicians, it’s worse than you think. All charter change attempts by all Philippine presidents after Corazon Aquino have a common motif–amendments to our nationalist economic provisions, to allow the wanton foreign exploitation of our natural resources and foreign ownership of our public utilities.

Even with the 1987 Philippine Constitution in place (and its 60-40 ownership restrictions in many national industries), the country’s rich natural resources have only been exploited, through legal loopholes, by local and foreign corporations for profit instead of serving its potential of lifting the millions of Filipinos who continue to suffer from abject poverty out of their tragic situation.

The current attempt at changing the Philippine Constitution will not only seek to extend the Arroyo administration’s hold on power, but will also legitimize the economic plunder of our country. All the more reasons to reject the Arroyo administration’s current attempt at Charter Change.

Faced with Recession, US at the Forefront of Amending RP Constitution

The latest report on Foreign Trade Barriers of March 2009 on the Philippines by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) explicitly states the “[aim to reduce or eliminate] the most important foreign barriers affecting US exports of good and services, foreign direct investment [and] intellectual property rights.”

Apart from Politics, Pressure from WTO, US, EU Drives Cha-Cha Bid

The political dimension of charter change has dominated the national agenda. But the constant driving force behind all the attempts since the last decade to modify the Constitution has been the external pressure coming mainly from the WTO, the US, the EU and other rich countries to create the sort of policy environment that will allow globalization to fully thrive in the Philippines.

US ‘Wish List’ vs Philippine Constitution Behind American Lobby for Cha-Cha

The Americans, like the Europeans, have an inventory of what they call “barriers” in the Philippine Constitution that they want the Arroyo regime to remove through constitutional amendments. Meanwhile, the Constitution will have to conform with the Jpepa, the Philippine-Japan agreement, not the other way around.

GMA Hires Pricey Foreign Consultant for Cha-Cha

On July 25, 2005, Mrs. Arroyo hired the lobbying and representation services of US-based Venable LLP, one of America’s top 100 law firms, for a substantial sum of $75,000 a month, or $900,000 (P50.4 million) for 12 months, to “secure grants and (US) congressional earmarks” for her initiative to “reshape the form of government”¦into a parliamentary federal system.”

Youth Action Day & the 148th anniversary of Jose Rizal’s birth

Kabataan Party-list commemorated last June 19, 2009 the 148th birth anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal and its founding anniversary with a Youth Action Day against the convening of a constituent assembly and charter change.

148th Rizal Birth Anniversary (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09)

The Youth Action Day kicked off with a Morning Jog against Cha-Cha at 8:00 in the morning around Rizal Park. After which, youth and student leaders led by Kabataan Party-list Mong Palatino went back to the Rizal Monument to offer a wreath symbolizing the youth’s respect and honor for the national hero.

Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09)

In the main program held in Luneta, Palatino said that “Rizal should be honored for his patriotism and nationalism and today’s youth should all be made aware of the lessons he bequeathed upon us.”

Palatino said, “It was Rizal who said that “˜There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.’ His words ring true today when our youth and people are being confronted with attempts to discard democracy and wield a modern-day dictatorship. It is just fitting that we commemorate Rizal Day with the youth’s resounding call against Arroyo’s cha-cha and tyranny.”

Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09) Youth Action Day at Luneta (Jun. 19, '09)

Students from different schools in Metro Manila were in attendance. National youth groups such as the National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Kristiyanong Kabataan para sa Bayan were also present. Youth and student leaders capped the program with a Youth Pledge and collective signing of a petition campaign spearheaded by alliance Kabataan Kontra Cha-Cha.

Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan (Jun. 19, '09) Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan (Jun. 19, '09) Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan (Jun. 19, '09) Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan (Jun. 19, '09) Anti-ConAss Noise Barrage at Katipunan (Jun. 19, '09)

In the afternoon, students from the University of the Philippines – Diliman held a noise barrage along Katipunan Avenue to protest against Con-Ass and Charter Change.

Age of Consent

On the issue of the UP Student Code and national issue of the Constituent Assembly

It was modern thinking that placed a high premium on Consent as a foundation of law. Consent has a transformative moral power, but it has its own pitfall: it can transform a wrongful action into a rightful one. If Manny Pacquiao had knocked down Ricky Hatton outside of the ring, he would have been prosecuted for serious physical injuries.

Still, this philosophy stems from the core belief that all men are reasonable, and that Reason will then lead us all to a single, unassailable conclusion. This legal theory, stridently discussed in Malcolm Hall, is relentlessly tested in practice.

We note two particular instances: in proposals for a new code for student discipline in Diliman, and for a constituent assembly to change the Charter. When the UP administration moved for the codification of student rules sometime in 2005, students were only allowed piecemeal participation. In a university where 80% of students are older than 18 years — the age of consent — the lack of active and inclusive student participation is suspect. The drafting of the Code undermines the basic right of students to be consulted, represented, and decide in the formulation of policies that affect their rights and welfare.

UMAKSYON last year joined 100 other student organizations, in submitting to the Board of Regents an 18-point demand “reclaiming the rights of student organizations in the University of the Philippines”. The document specifically demanded student council control over two properties; softer rules on organization and assembly; and secure student representation or participation in important campus activities.

In contrast, the draft Diliman Student Code emphasizes that the use of university facilities and the use of a tambayan is a grant, a privilege. It also offered stricter guidelines on student organizations, and barely promised solutions to staffing and appointment issues of student publications and representatives. What the draft code puts forward is a simpler procedure for discipline cases.

The mismatch is worse on the national arena. Charter change during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has never had the support of the people. Yet still, at a time when citizens are clamoring for economic palliatives — jobs, higher wages, a more beneficial agrarian reform, lower tuition — the Philippine Congress decides to start changing the charter.

Personal political interests have always found their way into the legislature, but never before as daft and brazen. The House of Representatives approved House Resolution 1109, which converts Congress into a Constituent Assembly, before midnight of June 2. The Assembly, which finds no difference between members of the lower and the upper chambers, is legally infirm. It would be, in straightforward terms, a usurpation of power of the Senate by members of the House of Representatives. Standing to benefit from nine years of similar political machinations is Mrs. Arroyo, one of the slyest UP alumni ever to sit in office.

Amidst some of the worst scandals in political history, she was safely tucked in the immunity of public office. Charter change, a new run for office, and a whole motley of exit plans promise to unreasonably, but permanently keep her untouchable. It will be one large question of political survival for Mrs. Arroyo — and for the Filipino people — after June 30, 2010. As we mark every milestone: her last State of the Nation Address in July, election day in May next year, it won’t take a legal education to answer: would Coercion succeed where Consent cannot?

Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon (UMAKSYON) UP College of Law

Anti-ConAss rallies in Makati and UP Diliman

Right after lunch time, students, teachers and other members of the University of the Philippines community in Diliman gathered at Quezon Hall to hold a short program and a press conference to condemn the moves of President Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives to convene itself into a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) to amend the 1987 Constitution.

ConAss is not what the country needs. Charter change will not address the youth’s problems with regard to education and job opportunities. We cannot allow this move to push through, seeing it as an initial step in a political scheme to prolong the Arroyo administration’s hold on power. We have witnessed how Arroyo and her allies have betrayed the aspirations of the youth and the rest of the Filipino people for a better government and a better life, and we must reject any move that is simply meant to prolong our agony.

Wala tayong maaasahang pagbabago habang nandiyan si Gloria Arroyo. Either we oust her soon or we boot her and her allies out of office through the 2010 elections.

Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09)

After the program at Quezon Hall, the UP Diliman contingent marched along University Avenue to Philcoa where groups of students and teachers boarded buses and jeepneys to go to the large rally at Makati. I was with my friends from the incoming University Student Council and my blockmates in Law.

Upon reaching Ayala, we walked towards the intersection of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenues where thousands of protesters converged for the rally. Several representatives from political groups, including opposition politicians spoke against ConAss. Several bands also played music as an expression of outrage against ConAss. Students from different universities, and out of school youths broke into discussion groups and turned Paseo de Roxas into a large classroom discussing the socio-political situation of the country. The rally ended promptly at eight in the evening.

Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09) Anti-ConAss Rally (Jun. 10, '09)

Different kind of virus to spread on June 10

Solon urges students to transform Ayala into “˜one giant classroom’

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino today said that classes may have been suspended due to precautions over the AHN1 virus but a different kind of virus is spreading among youth and students. “Precautionary measures over the AHN1 have caused the delay of the start of classes in colleges and universities this Monday but a more contagious virus is spreading among our youth and students today. It is the A-CA virus, the anti-constituent assembly virus, and more and more are being afflicted and there’s nothing we could do to stop it,” Palatino said.

Palatino said that youth and students have all the reasons to be outraged over the blatant railroading of the con-ass resolution by administration allies in Congress. “We simply cannot allow con-ass to push through. The Arroyos and their allies can bribe or utilize government agencies all they want but they will be defeated by the defiance and collective action of our youth and our people. The only way to stop this atrocity is to go out and protest,” Palatino said.

Palatino also called on students to make good use of the unexpected vacation from school and join the Ayala protest on June 10. “Let us transform Ayala into one giant classroom. Walang klase pero doon tayo magklase sa lansangan. June 10 will be more educational and informative of the country’s current political state than all our lectures in school combined,” said Palatino. Palatino also called on school administrations that are against con-ass and charter change to encourage their students to join the June 10 protest.