People's Initiative

[WATCH] Carpio on People’s Initiative: ‘Nothing to do with economic provisions’

John Sitchon
[WATCH] Carpio on People’s Initiative: ‘Nothing to do with economic provisions’
'There is no law to implement the people’s initiative clause of the Constitution,' Carpio tells Rappler

CEBU, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio slammed efforts to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative as having “nothing to do” with reforms to the Philippine economy.

“The proponents blame the economic provisions of the Constitution for our low foreign direct investments, for our high unemployment, and, of course, low economic growth… I think this is very easy to expose as false,” Carpio said during a forum organized by the University of the Philippines Political Science Society in Cebu on Tuesday, February 20.

The retired justice argued that the Philippines already has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in Southeast Asia. According to him, one of the more recent developments in opening the economy to foreign investments include the amended Public Service Act.

Former president Rodrigo Duterte signed the law amending the Public Service Act on March 21, 2022, allowing full foreign ownership in telecommunication companies, major shipping and transport industries, and airlines.

“There’s a little misunderstanding here that is very disturbing. President (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) said, and I quote, ‘I want to open the economy to foreign investments, except in critical areas such as power generation.’ Power generation has been open to 100% foreign ownership for the longest time,” Carpio said.

Carpio cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision in the case of IDEALS Inc. v. PSALM that allowed 100% foreign ownership of power generation from dams or hydropower plants.

To address the low foreign direct investment, Carpio said, the country should address the “real causes” of the economic problem without resorting to charter change.

In a 15-page document authored by Carpio, he listed down high power costs, lengthy bureaucratic regulations, poor infrastructure development, and an absence of the rule of law as primary hindrances to increased foreign investments.

On the absence of the rule of law, Carpio brought up how Duterte threatened Manila Water with expropriation after winning a P7.39 billion award in an international arbitration against the national government.

The case stemmed from the government’s failure to pay for the company’s losses from 2015 to 2017 as the government disallowed Manila Water from implementing rate hikes.

“The poor Manila Water complied and revised (the agreement) and did not collect the award, they waived the award, and that scared away existing and potential foreign investors because for them the rule of law is sacrosanct,” Carpio said. 

Revision vs amendment

Besides claims supporting an “economic charter change”, Carpio also criticized the validity of the proposed changes of the current people’s initiative.

Carpio, reiterating his sentiments in an ABS-CBN News Channel interview on January 25, said that the people’s initiative proponents are pushing for a revision, which the Supreme Court ruled in Lambino v. Comelec in 2006 that only amendments can be made through the people’s initiative.

“An amendment is a simple change in the Constitution that does not affect basic principles like the checks and balances or the separation of powers…if it is changed, that is a revision,” Carpio said during the forum.

He added that there is also no enabling law for the implementation of the people’s initiative provision in the constitution as the Supreme Court ruled in Santiago v. Comelec that the Initiative and Referendum Act was “inadequate to cover the system of initiative to amend the constitution.”

On January 29, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) halted proceedings related to the people’s initiative to review its guidelines.

As of this writing, majority leaders in the House of Representatives have filed Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7, mirroring the Senate’s RBH No. 6, in an effort to expedite the process of amending the Constitution. –

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