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It’s not the Constitution, but EDSA

OUR political leaders are so insanely wrong in claiming that restrictions on foreign investments enshrined in the 1987 Constitution have resulted in our economic quagmire, and therefore this should be amended. The reality is that it is the “EDSA People Power Revolution’s” ramifications that have created obstacles to economic growth so serious that we have fallen behind most of our neighbors in Asia.

EDSA had three major consequences that were deleterious to economic growth in the past four decades. First, it toppled a dictatorship but reinstated elite rule focused on their wealth accumulation and indifferent to the nation’s growth. Second, EDSA’s “democratic space” — as the Communist Party of the Philippines put it — allowed insurgencies to grow, which discouraged local and foreign investments. Third, it demonized the kind of state-directed economic policy responsible for the growth of the “Dragon and Tiger” economies of Asia.

Strongman Marcos and now President Marcos in 1986.

First, while toppling a dictatorship, EDSA swiftly restored the Philippines’ anarchy of elite families, which was the situation since the nation’s birth. This remains the reality concealed through the scheme of popular voting, which has the added advantage though of preventing inter-elite conflicts from turning violent, which would be disastrous for everyone.

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Six facts about EDSA you didn’t know

MOST likely it is another case of the adage that history is written by the victors. But there are facts — now indisputable — that we didn’t know, or were hidden from public knowledge, during the February 1986 People Power Revolt and even three decades later.

Perhaps because of the disillusionment with the presidency of the son of the so-called heroine of EDSA 1, the facts have been ferreted out, or have simply become clearer. The following five facts are from documents and eyewitness accounts, and not from some “anonymous” sources, which the space constraints of a newspaper column do not allow me to list.

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A dozen more conglomerates like RSA’s, maybe we have a chance

Last of 2 parts

BY RSA, I mean, of course, San Miguel Corp. President and CEO Ramon S. Ang, who is usually referred to by his initials. By “maybe we have a chance,” I mean a chance for this country to finally crawl out of its essentially stagnant, stop-and-go economy since 1987 if, say, we have just a dozen conglomerates like that led by RSA. One of the richest countries in Southeast Asia, our economy’s pitiful path has resulted in our falling (in terms of GDP per capita) behind China in 1997, Thailand in 1985, Indonesia in 2001, and most recently, Vietnam in 2020.

SMC river cleanup program’s results.

You see, rarely discussed as a factor in a country’s development has been the behavior and quality of its big businesses, even if it is mainly these entities, especially large corporations, whether private or state, and not government, which actually undertake most of the economic activity that determines the course of our economy.

This phenomenon has been little studied — except in the past few years* — because of the dominance of the neoclassical economic ideology, which decrees that corporations’ raison d’etrè and overarching goal is to maximize profits for its shareholders, period. The invisible hand of the free market will then automatically allocate resources for an economy’s growth. The economic growth of the country it operates in is not of its concern but that of government, the neoclassical theory says.

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SMC’s takeover of NAIA: A game changer for PH

THE award to develop and operate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport won last week by a consortium headed by the San Miguel conglomerate, together with its ongoing New Manila International Airport project in Bulacan, will be a game changer that could help trigger, finally, the country’s quantum leap away from its 30-year economic doldrums since 1987.

RSA, the new airport magnate. SMC PHOTO

It could be a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, of course, and it is definitely only one of myriad factors for economic growth. But the building of huge modern airports by a country has consistently historically been the harbinger, trigger or verification of its economic take-off.

Many factors explain this: it makes it easy for foreign capital and their executives to travel to and from the country to supervise their investments, thus encouraging more ventures; it makes imports and exports to the country, especially of light but high-value airline-borne products, reliable and fast; it gives tourism a boost; it is a catalyst for the growth of other industries, even of entertainment and mall enterprises.

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Donors’ list would have been smoking gun linking Romualdez and/or Marcos to Pirma

THE list of those who donated the first P55 million tranche for the advertising campaign that would have been the cover for the plot to stage a fake “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution could have been the proverbial smoking gun.

Sibling, cousin squabble.

The list could have indubitably revealed that House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez or even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself were behind it.

But don’t hold your breath that such an explosive revelation will be made: the investigations on this plot has been suspended, and there could be a real possibility that, as happens in this country, in dinners in Forbes Park mansions attended by protagonists’ mutual friends as mediators, deals will be made to bury the hatchet, and they’ll just move on.

Only Pirma (People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action) convener Noel Oñate had claimed in the Senate investigation of the plot that he had put up half of the P55 million for the first eight days of the advertising campaign, which would have cost a total of P211 million for running the ads for eight weeks as originally planned. Oñate had adamantly refused to reveal who his co-funders were, claiming they were worried over their security and privacy if he did so.

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Año and Teodoro’s witless knee-jerk press blabbers must be quelled

A FEW friends abroad, mostly scholars and Philippine watchers, emailed me last week to ask: “Are things there getting really bad?” They were mainly referring to National Security Adviser Eduardo Año’s screaming statement, bannered by several media outlets: “Any secession move to be met with force.”

Not to be outdone, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said: “The military will use its forces to quell and stop any and all attempts to dismember the Republic.”

It is these two officials’ blabbering that should be quelled. They were brainlessly reacting to former president Rodrigo Duterte’s statements at a sparsely attended, little-reported press conference in Davao City last week about “regrouping” Mindanao leaders led by former House speaker and current Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez to push for what has been called the “Mindanao initiative.”

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Erroneous focus on altering the Constitution

AFTER much thought and research, I am convinced the recent kerfuffle over amending or revising the Constitution is so misplaced — I’m close to using the adjective “mindless” — that its hidden goal, as it was when President Fidel Ramos first tried it, is merely to establish a parliamentary system that would be a venue for House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s ascension to power.

There are more pressing matters for Congress to tackle, among them our electricity rates, the highest in the region and double that of Vietnam and China, the two countries that have been the favorite destination of foreign capital in the past two decades.

The Senate move to have only the Constitution’s provisions restricting foreign investments lifted is simply a diversionary move in response to the House of Representatives’ campaign through the dubious bungling outfit Pirma (People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action) to establish that parliamentary system.

Except for Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, who gullibly believed the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report that we have the most restrictions on foreign investments among 84 countries, after the war-torn Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Libya, there is really no other legislator, even in the Lower House, passionate about the lifting the remaining constitutional limits on media, advertising and a handful of other strategic industries.

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Cha-cha for economic revisions? A P15 billion piece of nonsense

Last of 2 parts

TO argue that we need to lift the remaining economic restrictions in the Constitution, Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian in the Senate subcommittee hearings on the issue the other day presented what on the surface is shocking data from the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECD).

The data showed that out of 84 countries, the Philippines was ranked third as having the most restrictive legal framework for foreign investments. Now hold on to your seat: the OECD ranked us below the Palestinian (now Israeli-devastated) Gaza Strip and West (and US-destroyed) Libya. This is absurd.

This should have alerted Gatchalian, if he just used common sense, that there was something wrong with the OECD study. Indeed, the OECD ranked Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar ahead of us. It also ranked countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia just a few ranks better than the Philippines.

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Forget about Charter change and parliamentary system

First of 2 parts

C’MON guys, let’s be realistic; hell will have to freeze over before we are able to amend, revise or change the present Constitution.

The only two times that the Constitution was changed was when a dictator did it, with the body politic suppressed from having a say in it.

The first time the 1935 Constitution was amended was in 1973 when the strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos had a constitutional convention draft the basic law he wanted. He then convened the so-called citizens’ assemblies to ratify it by viva voce, that is, by a show of hands, which therefore resulted in no written records on whether Filipinos really did want the new basic law. Proclamation 1102 declared that an amazing 91 percent wanted the new constitution, and therefore was adopted.

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P5-B govt funds eyed for Pirma signature campaign

Last of 3 Parts

THE dubious outfit Pirma (People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action) with the staffs of certain members of the House of Representatives was set to tap into at least P5 billion of government funds intended for poverty alleviation projects to bribe people into signing the proposal to change the Constitution, which would have given the Lower House of Congress uncontested authority to alter our basic law.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez with Pirma head Noel Oñate and its officers on the eve of the campaign’s launch.

This plot was intended to augment the initial plan to give away P200 per signatory which, the sources said, the Charter change plotters were having difficulty raising on a national level. This is according to sources privy to the scheme — whose allegations are bolstered by witnesses and communications among those involved.

Since the plot involves graft and malversation of funds, the Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the plot.

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