charter change

Why 1987 Constitution framer Hilario Davide Jr. opposes charter change

Bonz Magsambol

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Why 1987 Constitution framer Hilario Davide Jr.  opposes charter change

NO VALID REASON. Former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. says there's no valid reason to amend the Constitution.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. says there are no 'valid, serious, and compelling reasons' to amend the charter

MANILA, Philippines – Former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. said that amending the economic provisions of the Constitution would create “serious and disturbing problems and consequences.”

Davide, who was a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, was the guest resource person on Monday, February 5, at the Senate inquiry into Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 (RBH6) “proposing amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.”

“I repeat, our problems are not due to the restrictive economic provisions of the constitution. They cannot be solved by removing its restrictive economic provisions, and completely leaving to Congress the future under the clause ‘unless otherwise provided by law,'” Davide said.

RBH6 was filed at the Senate in January to amend economic provisions of the charter which would focus on opening up to foreign investors the ownership of educational institutions, advertising, and public utilities, and by inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

No ‘valid reason’

The Constitution limits foreign ownership in industries, 60% Filipino-40% foreign as a general rule, and absolutely no foreign ownership in mass media.

But Davide argued that there are no “valid serious and compelling reasons” to amend the the charter.

“What our country and our people need today are not amendments to or revision of the Constitution but the full implementation of its principles and state policies,” he said.

Several laws and regulations have been passed in recent years that already opened up the Philippine economy to the world without having to amend the Constitution. (READ: How Philippine economy opened up to the world without charter change)

One recent example is the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11659 or the Public Service Act in March 2022, which distinguishes the difference between a public service and a public utility. Under this law, public utility no longer includes telecommunication, shipping, airline, railway, toll road, and transport network vehicle industries. Because of the PSA, these industries are no longer subjected to the 40% constitutional limit on foreign ownership. Simply put, foreigners can now fully own corporations in these industries.

RBH6 also proposed the same clauses to the provisions on basic educational institutions and the advertising industry, so that there will be an an opportunity to enact laws to lift or ease the cap on the 60-40% foreign restriction on the former, and the 70-30% on the latter.

Davide said that opening the country’s educational institutions to foreigners would make schools vulnerable to foreign control, adding that this would undermine the “noble patriotic and nationalistic virtues.”

Article 14, Section 3 of the Constitution states that “all educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula.”

“Can we expect foreigners at the helm or control of the educational system to seriously and healthily obey this state policy on education?” Davide rhetorically asked.

“If, at all, there is a need to amend the constitution, it must be based on the most compelling grounds or reasons,” the retired chief justice said.

Davide said that proposed economic revisions pertaining to agriculture, land ownership and lease are not the culprits or the causes of our massive social economic, political, moral and ethical problems and debacles.

“These were all caused by the failures to fully implement or enforce the constitution, by poor governance and accountability, and open violations of the public trust character of the public office enshrined in Section 1 of Article 11 of the Constitution which provides ‘public office is a public trust,'” he said.

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House members have always been eager to amend the charter. All previous attempts fizzled out as their Senate counterparts were not too keen on amending the Constitution, especially through a constituent assembly. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.