First, let me start by saying that, in general and broad term terms, the idea of pushing for a Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism are all very good ideas that are worth discussing.
A large amount of literature has been published regarding these three ideas, where some of the country's best minds articulated the merits of having a parliamentary system of government, an economy that is more open to foreign investment, and a Federal government which would allow provinces to organize themselves into states.
In fact, the ideas of Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism has some of the biggest names in Philippine politics behind it.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte have, in fact, said that they fully supported amending the constition's economic provisions.
In one column, the proposed changes in the economic provisions of the constitution was discussed. Here's an excerpt:
I once called the restrictive economic provisions as the “original sin” of our economic development policies. They constitute the main reason for the country’s limited access to foreign direct investment capital that the country has sorely needed since independence.
These policies not only served to limit the inflow of foreign capital into the country. They also set the tone for the nurturing of a narrow economic nationalism as a dominant component and thinking about practical economic policies in the country for years. The end result is that the growth of output and of productivity in the country had also suffered immensely.
In 2010, Enrile and Belmonte agreed not to entertain discussions on proposals for revising political provisions in the constitution. (Although, recently, Enrile came out with several statements proposing the re-establishment of Senatorial Districts.)
But despite the good that these ideas represent, their adoption and implementation in the real world of Philippine politics and economics have been thwarted by and large for many reasons.
In the X number of times that Constitutional amendments have been discussed formally in Congress as well as in the Senate, the stumbling block has always been amending provisions which have to do with the terms of office -- specifically that of the President.
Even during the Ramos Administration, when it seemed the country was flying high under his leadership and there was at least some reason to want to give President Fidel Ramos another term, there was great opposition to changing the Constitution to allow the sitting President to seek another term.
During the Estrada years, the move to amend the constitution was less visible but discussions continued and to some extent, these discussions were even backed by President Joseph Estrada.
It was during the latter part of the Arroyo Administration's term that the idea for amending the constitution resurfaced again and was opposed. Again, the main object centered around giving a term extension to the sitting President.
What escaped the public eye back then was all the behind the scene work focused on coming up with amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
A friend who was somewhat involved in coming up with the amendments related to me that most of the proposed amendments, at the beginning, were actually economic in nature and there was a prevailing agreement that no proposals for changing the constitution's political provisions would be entertained.
The focus on proposing amending the Constitution's economic provisions stem from the idea that the country's biggest problem is poverty and that amendments to the Constitution should focus on lifting the restrictions that were perceived to be holding back the country's economic growth
Also, by focusing narrowly on changing the constitution's economic provisions, they believed proposals on this merit would be more widely accepted and supported.
The only contention against changing the economic provisions of the Constitution would perhaps be provided by protectionist groups. These groups would probably argue against opening the economy fully to foreign investment because it would lead to the drowning out of Philippine businesses.
This is a valid concern which can lead to serious opposition, but, it is also something that can be addressed more easily with the right policies -- emanating not from the Constitution itself, but from the Senate and House of Representatives.
Now, one small group on Facebook seems bent on pushing for Parliamentary Shift, Economic Liberalization, and Federalism in a manner which is somewhat disconcerting -- to say the least.
I don't know if it is at all an "intelligent" or "subtle" or "enlightened" way of pushing for very good ideas, but declaring war on one of the more popular pages on Facebook will actually help make the group's chosen "advocacies" to prosper.
Tangina This is actually about 10,000 times larger than the smaller Facebook group that is declaring war on it and despite the fact that I believe principles should win over popularity, I really haven't seen it work out well in a street brawl for people siding with principle.
The Facebook soldiers, egged on by their leader by capslocking TULTA MUNILLE in what appears to be a message exchange on FB that was reposted in another group, might be setting themselves up for miserable failure and might even be damaging all the good work already done to push for changes in the Philippine constitution.
I've been told that the small facebook group thinks that charter change is being thwarted by some conspiracy organized by members of the country's political and economic elite as well as the communists.
This is something that I find a bit laughable because, the fact is, members of the political and economic elite have as much to gain from changes in the constitution or even more.
In any case, what people are really opposing or find repugnant -- as far as this group is concerned -- is not the proposed changes in the constitution itself, but the manner in which this group undertakes its campaign.
First, there is the bit of deception when it comes to their stated purpose. While its leader says their group is espousing Economic Liberalization and Federalism, what he is really pushing for is a shift to a Parliamentary form of government.
This was revealed in a conversation on FB I had with their leader, wherein I confronted him with the fact the Enrile and Belmonte both said they wouldn't go for amending political provisions in the constitution. Their leader insisted, based on old article already rendered MOOT by recent pronouncements, that Enrile -- in his heart of hearts -- was still going to push for a parliamentary form of government. I pointed out that he was speculating on Enrile's future action and that's when he lost his marbles.
It was plain to see that all he was really interested in was having a parliamentary form of government and he would have none of economic liberalization or federalism if it didn't include a shift away from the current presidential form.
So, in the end, instead of getting economic liberalization (which would help boost the country's economy for millions) or federalism (which could actually end the conflict in Mindanao), he'd rather just have a parliamentary form of government. The first two, in his mind, are optional and he has put it out there as some scheme to merely attract people.
But attracting people who can really help is not the leaders' forte.
(More to follow)