Since former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s presidential term, there have been numerous attempts to amend the Philippine 1987 Constitution, also widely known as “Cha-cha”. The administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is not exempt from this pattern. House Speaker Martin Romualdez, underscored that the House of Representatives will push for the amendment of Article 17 Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution with emphasis on economic provisions that want to draw foreign capital.
The lower chamber decided to re-route the direction of Cha-cha since the resolution to convene the Senate and the House of Representatives is not moving at its desired pace. Republic Act 6735 or the “The Initiative and Referendum Act” allows for the initiation of constitutional amendments through a people’s initiative, requiring a petition signed by a minimum of 12 percent of the total registered voters, with each legislative district represented by at least 3 percent. There are 65.7 million registered voters in the Philippines during the 2022 Presidential elections.
Put more simply, these economic provisions aim to broaden foreign ownership of businesses in the country by relaxing the charter’s existing limitations, allowing up to 100% foreign investment. This change could expose our nation to aggravated exploitation of our already depleted natural resources perpetrated by large foreign corporations. We support the stance of the Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) affirming that Cha-cha will not serve as a remedy for the ailments afflicting our nation.
Living Laudato Si’ (LLS) Philippines steadfastly asserts our belief that easing foreign investments in our nation will not address the Cry of the Poor, the Cry of the Earth, and other equally significant social concerns confronted by the Philippines. Rather, this will only exacerbate the further degradation of all Creation. Easing restrictions for foreign investments in our country means that we are giving them the freedom to utilize our natural resources for their self-interests, which often does not reflect the grievances of the impoverished. This constitutional amendment will give these large corporations the freedom we aspire to but never attain. Why should we extend such liberties to these international entities when we, the Filipino people, are deprived of them?
LLS also questions the extent to which this particular people’s initiative genuinely represents the “power of the people” since there was alleged bribery from various local executives amounting to 100.00 Philippine pesos (PHP) per signature of a registered voter. We denounce those who are in power who capitalize on the needs of the people through this clear act of vote-buying.
As what the Supreme Court accentuated in the case of Lambino v. Comelec, the Constitution is the foundational law of the land that warrants the highest regard and compliance from all citizens of this country. The uncertainty surrounding this supposedly noble movement granted by the 1987 Constitution and laid out in RA 6735, highlights the need for thorough examination and scrutiny from the Filipino masses. The integrity of the “People’s Initiative” is compromised by individuals who fail to embody the authentic progress our society yearns for—those in positions of authority driven by personal interests rather than our people and the environment’s collective well-being.
While the thought of People’s Initiative is remarkable, we urge our fellow citizens to exercise heightened discernment when evaluating movements like this specific People’s Initiative, as it appears to lack authentic public initiation but is instead instigated by a select few wielding significant power.
“…This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests…”
(Laudato Si’ par. 110)