Talks about Charter change (Cha-cha) were always equated with sinister efforts related to term extension primarily in an administration devoid of a strong mandate.
Former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was voted into the presidency, having as one of his campaign promises the establishment of wide-ranging changes, including instituting economic reforms that would eventually need amendments in the Constitution.
At the start of his term, Mr. Duterte’s economic managers initiated the comprehensive tax reform program that seeks to introduce reforms in the laws to raise revenues and streamline government collections.
Had the overall campaign been initiated, Cha-cha intended for the Federal shift should have easily included changes in the provisions of the Constitution that obstruct the flow of investments, the lack of which, in turn, has impeded the economy from achieving its full potential.
The window for the final push for reforms is now shrinking as the Duterte administration enters its twilight years.
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, believes that enough time remains for a decisive stroke for change.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has pushed for amendments in economic provisions of the Charter with the goal of supporting a stronger economy under Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 2.
The plan of the House of Representatives to effectively ease ownership limits in the economic sectors of the country through the insertion of the term “unless otherwise provided by law” to counter the constitutional restrictions can be done within a year with utmost determination from legislators, according to the veteran public servant.
Enrile said an easier track would be to remove the entire Article 12 in the Constitution where the curbs on foreign ownership are found.
Restrictive portions of the Constitution, according to Enrile, were influenced by the elite who wanted to monopolize the economy, but which they are not capable of supporting by generating capital.
It thus boils down to whose welfare the State will support, which is either big business who is already rich and has benefited from the limitations, or the majority who are struggling to find jobs.
Restrictions on foreign ownership with respect to every aspect of the economy should be removed, except maybe for media and advertisements, Enrile noted.
He added the exploitation and development of agriculture, minerals, natural resources and energy should be opened up to foreign capital subject to restrictions as may be provided by law.
It should be Congress through legislation to limit or impose restrictions on ownership.
An environment for an honest-to-goodness effort to implement lasting reforms under an administration with overwhelming mandate, as reflected in the President’s 91 percent survey rating, is fast fading.
If the needed amendments to the Basic Law are not met at this time, a perfect opportunity may have been lost forever.