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HomeFront PageConstitutional Amendment: Is It Obligatory, An Urgent Necessity, A Redundancy, Or A...

Constitutional Amendment: Is It Obligatory, An Urgent Necessity, A Redundancy, Or A “Non Sequitor?

By Virgilio L. Leyretana, Sr.

Part III

WHY?

President Bongbong Marcos, started navigating his six-years term against the backdrop of a polycrises that is driving the world to the brink of destruction.

Appearing unperturbed during his First and Second State of the State of the Nation address, PBBM presented his administration’s legislative priorities, plans, programs and projects for “economic renewal, long-term economic growth, and restoring growth, and restoring prosperity for Filipinos”, as follows:

“1. National Reopening – face-to-face classes nationwide; accelerated reopening of travel and economy to restore and create jobs (if pandemic shall re-emerge, be quick on vaccine procurement and roll-out.)

  1. Infrastructure Development – Build Better more programs implement critical infrastructure in the Philippines and advance digital connectivity across the country.
  2. Fiscal Discipline – improve efficiency of taxes by BIR and BOC. Prioritize targeted spending to manage debt and narrow budget deficit.
  3. Transparent and Efficient Governance – Establish efficient government processes to promote transparency, shorter turnaround time, and limit opportunities for corruption.
  4. Digital Philippines – Set up Broadband for quick reliable and affordable internet services which will facilitate effective learning and efficient delivery of public services.
  5. Energy Security – Boost local power operation capacity by reducing bureaucracy to attract energy investments and improve power delivery and distribution with the objective of providing competitive energy prices.
  6. Future-ready Filipinos (Education) – Provide quality education through standardized learning materials and digital tools. Upskill the workforce to improve employability and support priority industries. Invest in the future of the youth; strengthen the Free College Education Act, construct specialized training colleges and universities , and increase the number of young Filipinos acquiring science and technological skills through Research and Scholarship grants.
  7. Affordable Healthcare – Lower cost of medicines by allowing easier importation and strengthening primary healthcare in underserved communities. Build specialty hospitals, new hospitals and research centers, and create a National Center for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention for improved analytics and better healthcare coverage for low-income Filipinos. To expand and strengthen the country’s healthcare system to withstand another pandemic should there be a similar experience in the future.
  8. Food For All – Increase productivity of agriculture and fisheries, and bring down cost of food through cooperative modernization, and value chain development. The President emphasized that “A nation should not rely on other countries for something as basic as food. It is the primary need for survival. It then must be given primary attention and support. The President highlighted the importance of Food security.
  9. Infrastructure Development – Encourage private sector engagement and investment for the benefit of the public above all. Provide legal and regulatory for public-private partnership.

To support the foregoing, the President have likewise proposed the following legislative agenda, for Congressional action, to wit:

“1.National Government Rightsizing Program(NGRP)

  1. Budget Modernization Act
  2. Government Financial Institution Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act
  3. E-Governance Act
  4. National Land Use Act

6.Tax Package 3, Real Property Reform Valuation

  1. Tax Package 4, Passive Income and Financial Intermediary T taxation (PIFITA).
  2. Internet Transactions Act or E-Commerce Law.
  3. A law on a Unified System of Separation Retirement, and Pension for military and uniformed personnel.
  4. National Defense Act.
  5. Mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and National Service Training Program (NSTP).
  6. Establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps.
  7. Establishment of a National Disease Prevention Management Authority’
  8. Creation of a Virology Institute of the Philippines
  9. Creation of the Department of Water Resources
  10. Enabling Law for Natural Gas Industry. 17.Amendments to the Act of Strengthening Professionalism in the AFP (R.A. 11709). 18.Condonation of Unpaid Amortization and Interest of Loans of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries.

19.Establishment of the Maharlika Fund.

20.Passage of a Law Strengthening the Maritime Industry Authority’s Regulatory Functions.

21.Philippine Salt Industry Act.

22.The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

23.Amendments to the Electric Power Industry Act (EPIRA) R.A. No. 9136.

24.Amendment to the Build, Operate Transfer Law

Juxtaposed on the foregoing are the legislative agenda priorities, jointly agreed by Congress and the Senate, to wit:

  1. Amendment to the Passport Law
  2. Waste to Energy Act
  3. Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone
  4. Eastern Visayas Development Authority
  5. Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers
  6. Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers
  7. Apprenticeship Law
  8. Free Legal Assistance for Military and Uniformed Personnel
  9. Negros Island Region Act
  10. Regional Specialty Hospitals

Altogether, there are thirty-four (34) legislative priorities which are predicated in the Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028, and on the President’s – 8 Point Socio-Economic Agenda to wit:

 1.  Food Security

 2.  Improved Transportation

 3.  Affordable and Clean energy

 4.  Health Care

 5.  Social Services

 6.  Education

 7.  Bureaucratic Efficiency

 8.  Sound Fiscal management

The foregoing are also anchored on “Ambition Natin 2040” which is “a guide for development planning from 2016-2040 to enable Filipinos to attain a stable, comfortable and secure life.”

Since according to analysis, it takes sixty (60) calendar days to deliberate and approve a legislative proposal, or for a bill to get enacted into law, it is estimated that it would require 2,040 days for Congress to dispose of all of the 34 items aforementioned.

Sans reliable information, it is not certain whether the President’s legislative agenda have been enacted already during the period from July 2023 to February 28, 2034. Hence, given that he only has 1,820 days until the culmination of his term in 2028, would the juxtaposition of the Constitutional Convention not consume much legislative time and render untenable the disposal of all of his legislative priorities within his term?

Moreover, considering that amending the Constitution is a tedious, acrimonious, time consuming and most challenging law-making task, will this not impinge on the legislative process and compromise the enactments of the President’s legislative agenda?

Furthermore, considering that the amendments to the Constitution are not self-executory or “ipso pacto” enforceable, but would, invariably, need an enabling law, will the amendment process not frustrate the fulfillment of the President’s promises, and the attainment of his development plans, programs and projects for 2024-2028? Will the amendment process not jettison “Ambition Natin 2040” and its avowed goal that:

  “By 2040 the Philippines will be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor, our people will live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and will be in high-trust society.”

Strangely, after the President have laid down all of his priority plans, programs and projects, Congress adopted on March 6, 2023 RBHNo.6, calling for a Constitutional Convention to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Curiously, this evoke question as to whether PBBM’s legislative agenda is now superseded by the Constitutional Convention?

The foregoing developments whets the imagination inasmuch as, in an interview on a plane en route to Manila following his five-day official trip to Japan, the President said that:

“It’s not a priority for me because “maraming kailangang
gawin”(There are so many other things that we need to do
first that we can achieve kung makukuha natin ‘yung gusto
(If we can get what we want) what within the constitution is
written. . .”

“But for me, lahat ng itong mga pinagusapan kaya nating
gawin na hindi na palitan ang saligang batas (all these are
being talked about so we don’t need to amend the
Constitution), he added.

Subsequently, during the observance of the Philippine Constitution Day in Malacañang on February 6, President BBM also declared:

“It is noteworthy that our supreme law remains dynamic and
flexible expression of our cultural virtue, capable of adapting
to changing times and circumstances of our nation.”

Despite the President’s pronouncements, it defies understanding why in an interview with GMA News Anchor Pia Arcangel, he announced unexpectedly that:

“We have to adjust so that we can increase the economic
activity in the Philippines, we can attract more foreign
investments.”. . .except uncritical areas, such as power
generation, media, and the strategic areas that we cannot
allow to be influence by a foreign, be entity, be it corporation
or another country.”

“Our aim is to boost our local agricultural production –
through consolidation, and improvement of value chains –
augmented by timely calibrated importation as needed.”

“Our quest for food security, our methods are now more
guided by science and the balance of nature, so that
production is sustainable and responsible benefiting both
this and future generation.”

“Retail Code must be revised to incorporated strengthen
science based analysis and determination of fishing areas-
to protect both the interest of our fisherfolks and our
fisheries and aquatic resources.”

“Top priority: investment in infrastructure and in the capacity
of our people – through food, education, health, jobs, and
social protection remains our top priority. For this year 2024,
we Allocated 70% percent of the national budget.

Why did the President took a pivot and turn around to support the Constitutional Convention during this most critical times? Why is he pushing for amendment now when the preponderant researches and analysis by Rand, the Crisis Group, the United States Institute for Peace, and the Institute for the Study of War purport to show that the seemingly endless wars is pregnant with enormous risks of escalation and expansion where U.S. treaty allies, like the Philippines, can be involved directly?

Why is PBBM pushing the constitutional amendment now while hostilities continues and the humanitarian crisis is worsening?

Why do it now when it is not known how the conflicts will evolve; what trajectories might the wars take; when it is unclear what would happen next; how and what will be the outcome of the wars; and what the political implications will be?

Why is PBBM backing to change the 1987 Philippine Constitution despite the instabilities and uncertainties obtaining? How will the amendments or revisions make the 1987 Philippine Constitution operationally effective when, during the recent Munich Security Conference, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that:

       “The world has entered an “age of chaos that is causing

multitude of problems thwarting progress…and
There is so much anger and hate and noise in
our world today. Every day and at every turn,
it seems it’s war.”

Moreover, the UN Secretary General emphasized that;

“Our world is facing existential challenges and the global
community is fragmented and divided. . .Today in our
multi-polar worlds, we are still facing nuclear dangers
and.. .we are dealing with two more threats with
existential dimensions, the climate change and the risks
of uncontrolled artificial intelligence.”

The foregoing evokes curiosity as to whether the amendment or revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is an indispensable and only medium to attract foreign investments to the country?

This question triggers a litany of questions whetting the imagination and begging for answers.

The paramount question, however, is what compulsion prompted the President to reverse gear? What supervening development influenced the President to change his decision? What insuperable power or authority compelled the President to shift paradigm? What’s the scenario?

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