A Rational Argument against Constitutional Reform is Rarer than Red Mercury

In a conversation I had earlier today, one interesting point that was raised was the difference in the quality of the arguments made for and against constitutional reform. The general impression among various observers is that the pro-reform advocates have gotten off to a good start in both the empirical and propaganda sense, while those identified with the anti-reform point of view – ‘the usual suspects’, as it were – have been caught off-guard, disorganized and scrambling to hold back a tidal surge of public and political opinion against the status quo.

A good example is a column in today’s online issue of the Manila Bulletin by Romeo Pefianco, the latest in a series of rather bizarre installments decrying the constitutional reform initiative. Part of the opacity of Atty. Pefianco’s argument can be attributed to his odd, bullet-point writing style; the man is not an easy read even under the best of circumstances. But a lot of what makes his point elusive and ineffective is his apparent difficulty in deciding just what point he wants to make, which is perhaps why the MB editor felt it necessary to clarify the paper’s anti-reform policy parenthetically as an introduction to the article:

(Editor’s note: The Constituent Assembly or the Constitutional Convention cannot be stopped from doing more harm, as noted by the author.)

One would assume that the article explains what “harm” the Constituent Assembly or the Constitutional Convention would “do more of,” but Pefianco never quite gets to that. Instead, he first complains

When lawmakers declare that the 1987 Cory Constitution is in dire need of amendments, the proponents have no specific draft of their intent in printed booklet form or a clean mimeograph of the proposed amendments.

That is not a completely unreasonable issue to raise, except that “the proponents” have been fairly clear that the amendment process, as they intend to pursue it, has not nearly reached the stage at which a “specific draft of their intent” can be produced. So in this case Pefianco is offering a bit of a red herring – no one knows what the results of constitutional reform are intended to be, so rather than run the risk of undesirable or unintended results, the whole exercise should be avoided.

Pefianco then launches into a confusing discussion of the efforts of President Quezon to extend his term beyond that mandated by a 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution, as a way to illustrate “that bending the Constitution is easier than making it.” It’s a point that epically fails the “So What?” Test. What the maneuverings to keep Quezon in office beyond his expected term in the midst of World War II have to do with the current effort to open the discussion on constitutional reform in no way relate to Pefianco’s apparent thesis that “bending” the Constitution is inherently bad. In that context, one might reasonably ask why the current sacrosanct Constitution includes rather straightforward provisions for amendment.

Having established a “back story” for the current issue at hand by detailing a random mini-crisis in the Philippines’ political history, Pefianco finally gets around to specifying what he finds so horrifying about constitutional reform:

Once Congress convenes itself as a Constituent Assembly by a vote of three fourths of ALL its members, no TRO can stop it from 1) extending the president’s term by four years, 2) creating the office of prime minister in lieu of vice president, 3) increasing, 4) abolishing the term limit for members of Congress and local officials, 5) amending the Constitution without benefit of ratification in a plebiscite, etc.

Obviously, Pefianco has not been paying much attention to the discussion, since the weight of preference, for better or worse, now seems to be for a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could, hypothetically, adjust the term of the President, create an office of Prime Minister (although why that would be done “in lieu of vice president” and not as part of a more conventional Parliamentary form of government is a mystery for which the answer can only be found in Pefianco’s fevered mind, if even there), abolish term limits, and probably other things that would fall under the category of “etc.” How they could “[increase] the compensation of elective national officials to double the pay of government corporation managers/directors,” which is not a constitutional issue, or amend the Constitution without popular ratification (something which may be technically possible but probably politically unwise), is likewise a mystery.

After all that, Pefianco exposes the real horror, the “most fearsome of all” the ideas in constitutional reform:

The most fearsome proposal is the conversion of the present system into a parliamentary government by electing 800 members from 800 constituencies with a population of 100,000 plus each as in UK. (The MPs’ wages and other benefits alone may exceed R80B at P100M each.) Why? The life or survival of a parliamentary system depends on the support of the MPs, say at least 420 to 450 of the 800.

Considering that the proponents have no specific draft of their intent,” this is a suspiciously specific proposal. Which Pefianco apparently has a problem with because…MPs will draw salary and benefits? Quick, someone e-mail this guy the link to the “So What? ” Test. After first complaining that proponents of constitutional reform have no specific proposals, Pefianco settles for inventing one he imagines they might have to frighten his readers with the implication that the only purpose of amending the Constitution is to vastly enlarge and enrich the legislature.

At first blush, the proponents of constitutional reform ought to be pleased that the dissenting point of view towards their initiative is apparently represented by illiterate fools, but this is actually a bit of a problem. The question of whether the Constitution ought to be amended is already moot, so the lack of effective arguments against that are not an issue, but what that signals is a probable lack of coherent, alternative points of view towards specific reform initiatives that may develop. For the sake of finding the most inclusive and most relevant solutions, and most importantly, the solutions which will enjoy the widest public support, sound counter-arguments and alternatives to particular ideas must be presented.

In most every case, one solution or its opposite will be logically and practically superior, but that’s not the point. The real purpose is to elevate the debate on both sides of every issue and to encourage people to choose from clear, substance-based alternatives. The prevailing view may be the best one, but without the metric of opposing positions with which to judge it, those who hold the prevailing view will never be able to know with certainty if that view is as good as it could be. Without a more noble opposition that can muster something better than “charter change is a plot to return Arroyo to power” or “changing the charter does not make our people less fearful about tomorrow” as differing points of view, effective democracy will elude this country. Those who believe they are against constitutional reform now, and who will presumably be against specific reform concepts later, ought to consider whether they are best serving the interests of the country or even their own narrow, selfish interests by applying such comatose intellectual effort towards them.


About bkritz

I'm a writer, and I do things my own way. That might sound cool to you, unless you're one of the people who actually knows me, in which case you're probably shaking your head in exasperation at the depth of that understatement.
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52 Responses to A Rational Argument against Constitutional Reform is Rarer than Red Mercury

  1. I think I’ll need to repeat what one AP blogger said here earlier: “Good job, sir.”

  2. ChinoF says:

    I had to laugh when I saw the pic. “Red mercury” obviously had other meanings in my mind. 😛

    Back on topic, any violent reaction to the current constitutional reform movement is certain to have more emotional than intelligent or sensible tones to it. Even back when it was first being introduced as “charter change,” all the reactions would be emotional first before intellectual. I believe a healthy dose of anti-emotionalism is essential in avoiding the production of barbaric reactions and to fully and accurately understand the issue at hand. Which I understand is difficult because Filipino culture is heavily emotional – one of its great weaknesses.

  3. Hyden Toro says:

    Fear Tactic….

  4. Hyden Toro says:

    These people did : Blame Game; Diversion Tactic; Whore (Kris Aquino) tactic. Now, they are doing the :FEAR TACTIC…They frighten people; so that they can keep their power and wealth…

  5. jcc says:

    While I am a pro-amendment to the Constitiution, I never see it as material and relevant in overhauling our cultural mindset. As CM Recto said: It is not so much of the laws, but their implementors.

    • BongV says:

      consumers in a protectionist economy have this cultural mindset – victims, oppressed, hopeless, looking for a messiah

      consumers in an open economy have this cultural mindset – if the company doesn’t give value, then let’s go to the company that provides better value

      what mindset do you prefer? what environment enables such a cultural mindset?

    • BenK says:

      I”d have to agree with you, and I expressed a bit of that perspective in my last article. Constitutional reform is the structural component of the solution — absolutely necessary and it must be pursued with determination, but not the fix for everything. Structural reform and cultural reform have to work together, or neither will be fully successful.

      • Hyden Toro says:

        Governments are like your clothes. If it fits you; keep it. If not; change it. The late Primier of China Deng Ziao Peng simply had said: ” What does it matter; if a Cat is Black or White. If it catches Mice; it is a good Cat.”
        The Oligarchs, the Feudal Lords; the Political Warlords are afraid of the changes. They want to keep their power and positions…

      • ulong pare says:

        daaang! in flipland, every congressional sessions, flip prez & cohorts start their day with “LORD’S PRAYERS” >>> jueteng lords, warlords, feudal lords, poli/oligarch lords, lordy lordy lords…

      • jcc says:

        hahahahaa… it is like this. an effective mouse-trap whether painted black or white does not matter if it catches a mouse. but you must set up the mouse-trap first before it can catch a mouse. you need implementors to make that structure to work. if you do not have the right people who will set-up the mouse-trap, that mouse-trap would not get any mouse. an inefficient mouse-trap may get a mouse 2 ouf of ten mices, but a very efficient mouse-trap not set-up at all will get 0 mouse out of ten.

        that beautiful structure you call the constitution is not self-executing. you need people dedicated to its implementation to make that piece of paper work. with the kind of mindset our politicians and our people, you bet you were like prisoners arguing the geneva declaration of human rights before the Nazi firing squad.

    • Sir jcc. I guess it depends on what laws we are talking about. There are good laws and there are defective laws. Legislators and framers of the constitution are not perfect. Maybe “some” of them (and I’m sure some bloggers here will insist “many” of them) were acting with their vested interests in mind when crafting the laws and the constitution. As BongV pointed out elsewhere, it’s self-flagellation to continue implementing defective laws (such as those which prohibit and criminalize the entry of foreign competition, to protect local business interests, thereby stifling the people’s freedom of economic choice).

      As for CM Recto, yes he is esteemed. I’ve read various articles praising him. Then again, if we look back, he was also part of the larger group of Filipino public officials who made the economic restrictions as part of the laws of the land. So now, I no longer look into reputations of the people behind the policies. I just look at the policies themselves. In cases where I’m not sure which side to take, then in those cases I look at the people behind the policies, to help me decide.

    • ChinoF says:

      The idea is that improvement of economic conditions brings about improvement of culture (the more people who are well-to-do rather than poor, the better their culture willbe). There are many studies that have concluded this. Our premise that constitutional reform removes economic restrictions –> gives people more jobs and better pay –> snowballs into cultural improvements because of lessened poverty.

      • jcc says:

        these economic restrictions were get around with 99 per cent of the times through fronts and dummies and the country still stagnates.

      • ChinoF says:

        It’s corruption. It’s hidden. Once you legalize their 100% ownership, they don’t need to hide anymore through fronts. You can enforce legislation on them too (and it should be enforced on us as well). I also question the 99% of times you claim… that kind of thing needs proof.

      • BongV says:

        not with Fraport.. it got burned real bad.. thanks to those STUPID 60/40 restrictions in the Aquinotards Constitution – Philippine gov is known as estapador more than ever.

    • ChinoF says:

      On that side of changing culture with economic provisions, I would beg to differ. It goes this way for me: We do know that Wowowee TV and our messed up educational system (infused with T. Agoncillo and G. Zaide propaganda) are part of the reasons our culture is messed up. At least for me.

      Firstly, allowing more foreign players in education could include foreign schools investing in better quality educational programs. Of course, removing the propaganda in our educational system which led to that stupid poster called “Be Proud of the Filipino Race,” and removing the Zaide/Agoncillo biases are among the things I want done. Of course, we do need to overhaul our educational foundations and programs. Our educational program is a big influence on our culture, and can account in part for why our countrymen are relatively poorly educated.

      To address media, that Art. 15, Sec 11 that limits media to 100% Filipino ownership is an obvious oligarch provision, following their promise to “not let it happen again.” That should be one of the first to go, because it allows no other media company to compete with them. Besides, if Filipino owners have such stations, they’ll follow the same same trend with crappy content (as MVP did w/ TV5). Thus, I’m all for allowing foreign media in, because they can bring in more sensible content and finance those who can attempt to undo the cultural damage that our local Wowowee TV did. Media is acknowledged to be a strong influence on culture, and thus other media than what we have now must be strengthened, and foreign investment can help.

      • The Lazzo says:

        ((I know I keep playing Pinoy’s Advocate. But I’ve come to expect that if the Filipino can screw something up, they’ll not only do it but crack jokes about it afterward.))

        Education up to high school specifically is a basic human right – Article 26 of the Universal Declaration, no less – that is supposed to be guaranteed by the state, not by foreign (or as benign0 pointed out, local private) enterprises. It would be more ideal for the Filipinos to overhaul their own system, but they obviously need to reform their culture of thought to be more proactive about it. Especially when it comes to tailoring regional programs to fit regional taste, especially in language.

        It would still be nice to allow foreign educational-improvement initiatives to be able to play their part in improving it. Co-sponsored initiatives (50-50 to start?) with big American colleges and international educational advocacy groups would work. And the Philippines could use a much bigger scholarship network. But I’m not a fan of more foreign players setting up their own campuses because that’s technically what is happening with the British Schools, Korean Schools, and especially my old alma mater of the International School. It’ll create more educational ‘enclaves’ for foreigners and the local rich. If you’re from the middle class there you might as well be squatter fodder.

        Ultimately though, reforming the Filipino education system of cheap racist propaganda and incorrect schoolbooks should be done through Filipino initiative.

        As for foreign media, such restrictions should be legislated, not constitutional. But in terms of foreign players, maybe if we could get the BBC or CNN (and for print media, Reuters, AP etc.) to set up a real bureau, that could be just swell. But not Faux News or other state-run propaganda outlets like VOA or CCTV, who will probably be the first to jump at such an offer.

    • Jay says:


      an off topic but irrelevant to the constitution, since when has the government implemented laws that actually HELP people out in the long run and is considered fair? You can say the 60/40 is fair since it protects the local economy, but those same people who control the local economy have already steeped it with their own horrid culture that would take years or centuries as it is set back by old minds and archaic methods and mindsets. Same with the stupid Anti-hentai bill which I have contested long ago when you actually READ IT, doesn’t address what it intends to target but added provisions to protect exploitation of children.

  6. Hyden Toro says:

    It’s because the Aquinos promoted the mindset of Wowoowee Mentality. They even promoted the mindset of Whoredom…EDSA myth, and other kinds of Cult of Personality.

  7. J_ag says:

    Does anyone get the fact that for markets to succeed the prerequisite foundation must be strong and effective state institutions that must be in place that will outlive governments.

    Today the country has what appears to be led by an executive who appears detached, disinterested and disaffected by the responsibilities and accountabilities of his office.

    As far as what would be a good constitutional frame I would like to ask the author of this post to answer a couple of simple questions using his economist hat.

    Have you read the U.S. Constitution and fully appreciate the historical context in which it was written mostly in the creation of the trading union and the institution of a national purchasing media of gold and silver?

    Can you point out the major differences in framework to the 1987 Philippine Constitution?

    • BenK says:

      Here’s my answers to your simple questions: yes and yes. Now my question to you is: so what? Explain the relevance of an 18th-century, North American economic perspective to a 21st-century Asian country, and why anyone in that Asian country should necessarily be concerned with the comparison between the Philippine and US Constitutions.

      • jcc says:

        Because the U.S. constitution works for centuries despite the multiracial components of her vast geography. People have trusted their system to work and gave faith to it despite occasional system screw ups. (e.g., Kennedy assasination as an impromptu election; Bush election despite having lost the popular mandate to Al Gore). A strong Supreme Court which is generally respected by both dominant political parties.

        These I think what JA_G meant by institutions outliving the polticians and the scoundrels who occasionally occupied the high offices of the land.

    • ChinoF says:

      The US Constitution, like many constitutions I’ve seen, such Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, and even India (the longest in the world), do not include restrictions to foreign ownership. Such restrictions are included in their legislation. Thus, the Philippine Constitution seems to be an oddball in the world list of constitutions — especially when you realize that these restrictions cause its country to become poor.

  8. ulong pare says:

    daaang!… today is the best environment to introduce reform, any kind or form of reform… unlike the previous admins where the ultimate goal for reform was to stay in power, prez gung gong is not interested in prolonging his mumbling, stumbling and gaffing kagung gungan… he is tired of insulting himself… the current constitution specifically states that political clan is prohibited… again HB also reiterates same… no effects on flips… political familia/clans flourished…. they ignore the highest law of the land… will amending the current constitution make any difference if the same magnanakaws/balasubas run the show??? and the same useless flip gung gongs as the electorate??? NOT!

  9. Hyden Toro says:

    The great Novelist Victor Hugo, had stated: ” You cannot prevent an idea; whose time has come.”
    The French Revolution came; because of the excesses of the French Aristocracy. People like: Rosseau; Robespeire; etc…were the initiator of the revolution. Then came the Russian Bolsheviks Revolution. Lenin was the leader. It was caused by the Russian Aristocracy refusal to see the sign of the times. They were overconfident of their Secret Police and Cossack Special Forces Cavalry.The Czar used this Cavalry in the Bloody Sunday Episode. The October Revolution came. Czar and his family perished…

  10. ChinoF says:

    I’ve been looking at the ASEAN website, and I looked at their Investments page:

    “A free and open investment regime is key to enhancing ASEAN’s competitiveness and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as intra-ASEAN investment. Sustained inflows of investments will promote and ensure the dynamic development of ASEAN.”

    If we don’t remove the 40% foreign investment, even within ASEAN, we’d be considered a disobedient oddball. It would be favorable for our stance within ASEAN to liberalize the economy, among many things to do.

  11. jcc says:

    Some commentators expressed the view that we have sufficient local investors but they would rather hold unto their cash until sanity is restored in the way we manage our government. There are also those who would stash away their earnings to their homeland for reason of affinity and security. (local Chinese putting their money in Taiwan, Hongkong and Mainland because these places are more stable than RP). Lucio Tan does not care if PAL goes bankrupt and thousands of employees become jobless. He can always pack his belongings and millions back to China.

    Japan grew not because of foreign investment but because the elite shogun decided to invest on something that Japan most needed: factories that will employ their jobless people and industries that make exportable products to improve forex. While our moneyed mestizos (Chinese and Spaniards), invest in grocery stores (big malls) and shipping; always service related rather than in factories to serve the needs of the global market so we can earn foreign currencies.

    So disabuse your mind about amending the economic provision of the constitution as a precursor our our economic well-being. Get to realities and refrain from being dreamers!

    • ChinoF says:

      You may also need to disabuse yourself of the notion that Japan did not grow from foreign investment. Here’s a paper that says the opposite. The local investors are certainly present, but I doubt they all hold on to their money for the just reasons you cited. There’s certainly a lot more to the story than meets the eye.

      • The Lazzo says:

        From page 3 of your paper, the Japanese government took a very protectionist approach immediately postwar in terms of rebuilding their industry. But they were very proactive in rebuilding it and planning for further modernization. Section II.2 relates how the government convened with (and listened to!) foreign experts with their Ministry of Trade and Industry. Page 7 (Section IV.4) also relates how the government took a very planned approach to opening up “capital liberalization,” which I presume we are discussing here when it comes to things like the 60/40 provision.

        I suppose this is where I differ from some of the more vocal advocates of the free market here. The Philippine government is not inclined to build up local industry and modernize it at any pace faster than the local oligarchy will allow, which has been taking it at a “chillaxed” pace since the end of WWII.

        Finally, your linked paper was written in 1977, long before the bubble burst. So I suppose there are also lessons to be learned from that. Not necessarily protectionist lessons, but the lesson that opening up our own economy needs to be done pragmatically (and above the shrieking harpies that scream that it shouldn’t be done at all.)

      • ChinoF says:

        I doubt Japan’s level of protectionism was as restrictive as ours. The argument may continue, but I’m still largely convinced that Japan was more liberal than the Philippines. That paper I quoted after all saw liberalization as a large factor in the country’s progress. Still, if we want to have some protectionism, it is better done in legislation, not as part of the constitution, which is severely limiting indeed.

      • The Lazzo says:

        It sounded quite restrictive in the immediate stage of rebuilding after the war. But as I said, the Japanese government was also heavily committed to (re)building its industrial base before liberalization, so at least they’ll have SOMETHING competitive to help fuel the free market cycle. The same could be said of the Koreans during the ‘strongman’ years.

        I agree that such protective measures should be legislated, not part of a Constitution. But I wouldn’t say they were ‘more liberal’ as much as they were ‘more focused.’ After all, people were getting assassinated with swords before live TV as late as 1960 (look up Inejiro Asanuma on YT) but they focused themselves to grow out of it. You don’t have that attitude in this culture.

      • jcc says:

        What a cacophony of misguided voices. An offshore replica like Japan or Singapore cannot be transported to RP and hope that our country can be as robust as these two foreign models unless we meet some of the conditions: “highly disciplined and industrious people with a strong pride of nationhood.”
        And it is false to claim that Japan has opened her portals to unmitigated foreign investments which made her economy vibrant. And assuming she did, her industries have their footings fully rooted on the ground before the so-called “trade liberation” with the West occurred. This later condition was not obtaining in RP.
        In Singapore, urinating against the walls as well as throwing your gum wrappers on the street is a misdemeanor. A Japanese bureaucrat, suspected of taking in bribes, resigns of commit a seppuku. But everybody seem to toy with the idea that “economic amendments” to the constitution will make RP as prosperous as her Asian neighbors even absence of the operable culture inherent in these two offshore models.
        “Westerners have evidence of Japan’s industrialization all about them. MADE IN JAPAN is stamped on radios, television sets, steel, clothing, machine tools, motorcycles, baseball gloves, and a cornucopia of other things. The label once meant cheap junk; it now means the product of sophisticated industrial complex. Westerners, seeing this, may assume that because the products of the Japanese economy are like the products of the Western economy, the system that produces them may also be like their own. But behind the Western façade of corporations and factories is an economic structure and mode of operation that is different. It defies labels of capitalism, or socialism, or state capitalism or communism. The Japanese have absorbed deep injections of technology, methods of trade, financial concepts and corporate organization from the West while they developed their own ways of operating and controlling their economic machine, Japan’s economy today is probably the world’s mostly deftly guided economy, governed by a set of controls more fined than Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, or Josef Stalin ever dreamed of.
        The centralized control of the modern Japanese economy began during the Meiji period (this is what I meant by shogun/samurai elites who developed Japan, in my earlier post) when the oligarchs welded a strong alliance of themselves, the bureaucracy and the new industrialists to foster economic development. Businessmen, politicians and militarists struggled for control of the economy in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the militarists bringing it under their dominion. The occupation started to break these controls but relented when the advent of the Cold War made an economically strong Japan an asset against possible encroachments by the Soviet Union or Communist China. After Japan regained its sovereignty in 1952, the controls that had been dismantled were among the first to be reassembled. They have become even stronger as the economy recovered and moved into its tremendous expansion. The Japanese, a deliberate people, are reluctant to leave anything to chances and regulate the economy to bring all its component into harmony. They intensely dislike competition. The Japanese are personally competitive for power and prestige but fear that if this is not controlled, what they consider excessive competion will cause economic chaos. Japan has limited space for agriculture and industry, limited natural resources limited capital. The margins for error are small and the Japanese believe that laissez-faire, uncoordinated decision-making and the play of market forces are luxuries they cannot afford.” (Japan, Images and Realities, Richard Halloran, p. 133).
        You have also to consider that Japan for over half century, has no huge defense budget like RP because of the American bases in Okinawa, and therefore, she was able to channel her funds to her economic development.
        And finally, our own F. Sionel Jose said: “The real and lasting solution to our problems lies in our minds, in our culture, which must first be radically altered before changes in our country may be achieved”. ( Why We Are Poor, Solidaridad Publishing House, 2005).
        That piece of paper you called the constitution which will liberalize foreign investments in the country is a long shot. Don’t beat on it!

      • jcc says:

        I mean don’t “bet” on it. (mea culpa).

      • ChinoF says:

        I’d still count the opinion above as among the ones BenK would count as less rational. There’s this obvious emotional resistance against economic liberalization, as if “foreign investments are evil” – itself a highly irrational notion. Or as if the solution’s doomed to fail – without even being tried. To know if it will work, try it, for Pete’s sake.

        Back to the claim that some companies have been investing more than 40% anyway, the question should be poised – are they doing good or bad? I am of the opinion that they are doing good.

        BTW, here’s an article that says trade liberalization is much better for Japan’s rice industry. Protectionism, if so practiced by Japan, isn’t all that good for it. And for its neighbors.

    • BongV says:

      JCC — disabuse yourself from living in America – go live in NORTH KOREA – where you belong with your economic protectionism.

    • BongV says:

      sufficient local investors? heck if they don’t wanna put their money out – let foreign investors come in who have a different take – and are willing to risk their money – those locals who wanna wait it out can kiss consumers ass.

      • The Lazzo says:

        I don’t think they want to put their money out because right now there is essentially a very large gap between “small” and “big” investors. They have no chance of competing unless they have outside help.

        I am for removing the 60/40 but I am in favor of a more cautious approach. As you stated in your article on how you came to support constitutional reform, you suggested a ‘phased’ plan for foreign investors to build up local businesses. That’s actually a pretty good plan.

      • ChinoF says:

        I would agree how we proceed with changing economic provision need not be too brash. It’s just that the up-to-40% foreign limit has to go.

        I just think the local investors’ reasons not to invest is mainly because they would invest more in politicians who are able to help protect an environment wherein a big local business would have greater chances to be a monopoly. They might invest in a politician (campaign contributions), then the politicians once seated would favor them to cook government deals (no bidding) or even prevent competition from others. Any foreign investor, like Fraport, would actually be robbed of investment. Besides, what happened to Fraport was that the foreign company did end up spending for everything, as what JCC may be pointing out. but the reservation was merely “cooked” by the local company. So Fraport spent, but the government would stop the project and thus Fraport would not get anything back. To pay for debts incurred in the project construction the government would loan or take it from people’s taxes. And the local company pockets the money it gets, spending it on women and booze. It would turn out that our local companies are in a way defrauding foreign companies by doing things like this. So corruption is started not by the foreign companies, but by the Filipinos.

    • ArticleRequest says:

      Sir jcc, please disabuse yourself from thinking that we can just make do with protectionism because local investors ain’t sufficient. Stop being a dreamer and for once please see that protectionism is EXTREMELY inefficient and does nothing but serve oligarchs.

      Have a happy day! 🙂

    • Jay says:

      He can always pack his belongings and millions back to China.

      And yet another person will come and do as he did, deliver lack of customer service and control the market as easily as the provisions easily favor them. So tell me when the people can choose for better performance and customer service.

  12. Sir jcc, I think the saying is true that “different strokes work with different folks”. Maybe reliance on local capital may work for some, but we cannot expect it to work for everyone all the time.

    I was intruiged by your shogun comment and searched it. Per wikipedia, a shogun is like a national leader. Japan had such a shogun as early as 1000 years ago. Thus, Japan never got colonized during the age of conquest and exploration. 100 years ago, Japan was already an industrialized power capable of challenging the European world powers.

    In the Phil, we never had a shogun history. At most we had regional sultanates, just like our Southeast Asian neighbors, but they were apparently not strong enough to resist the foreign colonizers. Thus. the only country in SEA that escaped colonization was Thailand, which incidentally had its own national monarch similar to the national shogun.

    So do we really have a local version of an elite national shogun with adequate financial capability to move our country forward without need for foreign partners? Well our history shows we do not have that. There is also no publicly available information showing that the local elite has enough money to create industries and provide jobs to the locals (i.e. 7.1% unemployment rate; 19.6% underemployment rate; 64.2% labor participation rate; http://www.census.gov.ph). The commentators who said otherwise appear to be speculating without any hard empirical evidence. If they do have the evidence, I would be happy to validate their source.

    Even assuming it were true that the local elite has enough funds to provide jobs, but they prefer to invest it elsewhere, then with more reason we should open the gates to those who are willing to take the risk. If the local elite is not willing to help their own countrymen, then let’s work with others who are, even if they don’t hold Phil passports.

    The bottomline for the economic advocates is that POVERTY is the most pressing problem. How do we solve it? We CREATE JOBS and not rely on dole-outs. How we do create jobs? By using ALL AVAILABLE CAPITAL, local and foreign alike. But the constitution and laws prohibit and criminalize the entry of foreign capital to protect the local businessmen? Well then we should REPEAL THE RESTRICTIONS and allow their entry.

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that foreign capital will cure all our poverty problems. On the contrary, foreign capital is intended only to complement local capital. It is not intended to replace local capital altogether.

    • Jay says:

      ITs rather ironic that jcc is hinging on the pinoy monopoly to upright itself before forcing them to be prepared for anything rash, such as opening the economy. Because if local economy did care, there would be familiar to the concept that the western markets have long proliferated such as customer service and good quality. Not passing the blame like the officials do through saturated chinese markets or syndicates.

  13. concerned_citizen says:

    The only problem with I see is that the masses have gotten used to the idea of receiving dole-outs even for the tiniest problem that they meet. The oligarchs have created a culture where most of the common Filipino is solely dependent on these so-called blessings the ruling elite hand away. It’s a long and dangerous road to who knows what. I even doubt if we can ever move out from the dump we’re in right now.

    • UP nn grad says:

      PresiNoynoy is starting to be more vocal about his opposition to Constitutional Reform. You’d think he’ll be very brave considering they keep claiming that he has the mandate.

      But apparently <i.the Yellow Army now realizes that their interests about land-reform or protectionism or keeping oligarchy-versus-reforming oligarchy are at risk. Tagilid din sila, Reason — Noynoy does not have 51% of the Filipinos in his camp.

  14. benign0 says:

    We need to be careful and make sure we don’t gather up unhealthy momentum that may reduce our ability to remain reflective and introspective about certain belief systems that could be starting to snowball. The holding up of Presidential Systems and Oligarchs as strawmen or bogeymen should be avoided and we should, instead, remain focused on the whole point of such exercises and initiatives lest we ourselves get blinkered by our own zealous agenda-driven rush towards an as yet uncrystallised solution that could deliver ill-understood outcomes.

    Remember the 1986 Edsa “Revolution”. 😉

    Perhaps for our own benefit, as BenK points out here, we need to encourage people who are opposed to constitional reform to come up with more modern and more robust arguments to make sure that a balance is maintained and that the constitional reform agenda is not perverted by unhealthy popularity.

    • UP nn grad says:

      In Pinas media or blogworld, the arguments presented I have seen against Constitutional Reform are : (a) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; (b) the Convention will be por-nada because the uneducated voters will still elect the same bozos as Con-Convention delegates; (c) Status-Quo-is-acceptable-‘cuz-of-Noynoy — “puwede-pa-naman lalo na dahil Ubod-ng-Bait-Anak-ni-Cory ang nasa Malacanang, hindi ba? Unahin muna iyong walang-korap-walang-mahirap” bago magsapalaran sa bagong patakbo.

    • The Lazzo says:

      I suppose the closest thing that we could come up with for a “rational argument against constitutional reform” would be that the politicians would probably find some way to subvert it anyway. I could guess there are a lot of money-hungry politicos salivating at the thought of bags upon bags of foreign money for their provinces, but tow the anti-reform line just for image.

  15. J_ag says:

    Ben K’s answer is akin to a call to unite the ignorant. Knowing and understanding are two different realties. Politics always trumps economics. Always was and always will be. The U.S. Constitution is relevant for the most developing countries since the constitution was a break from feudal forms of government under a King. Unicameral representative government evolved from feudal structures. The lords united under a representative form of governance.

    In the U.S. limited suffrage based on property ownership determined representation. The difference was state power was divided into three separate but equal parts of government. No central absolute power.

    Most bloggers in this post should separate arguing about slogans and discuss policy issues.
    Economic liberalization, free markets, and accusing persons or countries of being protectionist is simply sloganeering.

    Global trade flows, capital and labor mobility are determined by treaties amongst states. All countries protect and manage trade, global capital flows and labor mobility.

    The U.S. Constitution placed the most power with the Congress. It had power over fiscal, trade and monetary policy. It laid the foundation of a unified free trade zone, unified currency union, unified fiscal union and after the abolition of slavery unified labor markets.

    My favorite ignorant economist says that their constitution has no relevance for this age of globalization. They laid the foundation for their own macro economy which is the largest on this planet.

    The (broad brush strokes) economic provisions of the U.S. Constitution. It left the rules to Congress to legislate and based on their system of common law can change with the times.

    Ben K do you understand the basic legal framework of the U.S. Constitution and the power it gives the U.S. State to legislate their laws over economic, political and social issues.

    Trade policy, industrial policy, fiscal policy, monetary policy and social policy emanates from the State. Has been that way since Chiefs, Kings and differing forms of representative governments have existed. Markets operate under this systemic and structural reality.

    Lifted from the U.S. Constitution:
    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
    To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
    To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

    No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

    • BenK says:

      You didn’t answer my question, which was: So What? What is your point? Or are you just summarizing your impressive knowledge of civics for everyone?

  16. J_ag says:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    The first debate should be on whether the ignorant would like to dwell on the natural rights theory vs civil rights theory. That was the principle basis for the foundation broad based participatory democracy.

    BenK do you realize the implications of State power over the Promotion of the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to Posterity.

    They went to war based on this idea of natural rights over civil law.

    More power to the ignorant and and do strengthen the ignorance in the country.

  17. killem says:

    i support charter change on economic provision for simple reason that economic policies should be flexible, thus should not be contained in the constitution. let congress decides whats the best mixed of economic policy. 

    with regards to protectionism vs liberalization,  we should develop first whats left in our local industry. it should be protectionism with development, not a free for all competition. South Korea, Brazil, Japan, India etc, achieve their economic development, first by developing their local industry first, before opening up to the world… we should protect our industry so that it will be competitive, but should not spoil it,  since it will result to “baby industry” who never grew up.

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