Why the Current Philippine Republic Needs to Die

When President Corazon Aquino established the Fifth Philippine Republic in 1987, she set forth a new constitution that in theory would eliminate the “excesses” of previous administrations. Foremost among these was the “Martial Law” clause that, in the event that a seated President would declare it, would allow it to pass through Congress first; Post-Marcos, this was only used once.

The more timely issue with the current Constitution is its economic protectionist policies, which restrict foreign ownership of businesses to only 40%. Numerous attempts to amend the Constitution, particularly to Article XIII where the 60/40 clause is mentioned, have been put forward since the 1990’s; all attempts have failed due to a popular fear of a return to “dictatorial tendencies.”

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But even beyond these two issues, it is increasingly clear that the 1987 Constitution, untouched since its inception, is rigid, outdated and inadequate. The zeitgeist that gave birth to it is long dead. It is perhaps timely that after nearly three decades of its existence, the 1987 Constitution of the Fifth Philippine Republic needs to be replaced.

The world has obviously changed a lot since 1987. Notwithstanding the new threat of ideological warfare and terrorism, the geopolitical maps and ecological balances that defined the Decade of Excess have morphed — for better or for worse, but that’s not the point. Many Filipinos’ lives have taken for the worse, while its neighbors around the South China Sea have adapted to suit the needs of their own people.

So why does the Fifth Philippine Republic need to die?

THE PROLIFERATION OF OLIGARCHIC MONOPOLIES. Like it or not, all the Presidents that have defined the Fifth Republic have only served the whims of the Philippine moneyed elite, in large part due to the 60/40 clause. Only around 40 families control the bulk of Philippine wealth, monopolizing vast swathes of land and public utilities, raising prices unnecessarily and barely making a dent in alleviating poverty. As a result, middle-class individuals are forced to break tight-knit family traditions and seek wealth elsewhere.

ENVIRONMENTAL NEGLECT. The 1987 Constitution does not provide for a clear declaration of how to preserve or enrich the natural resources of the Philippines. None of the environmental laws that have been created since then have actually improved on the country’s ecology, and after 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan is now the most ecologically fragile in the world. This, despite the existence of inherent environmental clauses in the Constitutions of other countries also vulnerable to ecological collapse.

DISREGARD FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES. One of the more unusual aspects of the 1987 Constitution is the maintenance of two “autonomous regions,” namely that of the Cordilleras of Luzon and of Muslim Mindanao. In theory this may seem palatable, but in practice it has led to more political confusion and unnecessary bloodshed. There are other indigenous peoples in the Philippines that are not mentioned in the 1987 Constitution whose lands are being exploited and literally treated like garbage. Yet, the centralized makeup of the government provided by the 1987 Constitution has done virtually nothing to respect the first nations of the Philippines.

A HEAVILY CENTRALIZED, FRIVOLOUS AND INEFFICIENT GOVERNMENT. It of course comes as no surprise that the taxes that an ordinary Filipino pays to supposedly help in the “development of the Philippines” doesn’t manifest itself that much in terms of economic, social or infrastructure improvements. Much of the policies that dictate where your taxes go are created by people who seem to have no interest in disclosing where it actually goes. Thus, essential areas such as sports, public works, disaster relief, military spending and health care are prone to corruption and drainage of funding, while money instead goes to renaming projects curiously close to the capital.

What I can see is that a new constitution, and in effect a new, Sixth Philippine Republic, can perhaps regress the perennial malaise that plagues the country today. Practically all the Constitutions the country has had from 1899 to 1987 have more or less copied the principles of the US Constitution; I propose that a future constitution (assuming it ever gets written) doesn’t have to go that same road anymore. The new constitution should adapt to the times and the geopolitics of the world today.

A government-centered socialist constitution for the Philippines would not work; although it has worked well for the Nordic nations, I know no one at the moment who would be willing to give up a large bulk of their income to the government in exchange for public services. The Nordic model worked for the Scandinavians because the majority of their people trusted their governments with their money, and the governments in turn treated their people well. The Philippines is too culturally heterogenous, too diverse and above all too populated for its people to trust everything to a centralized government. A Marxist/Communist constitution is out of the question as well; no Filipino I know is willing to give up their civil liberties and their love of owning things. It hasn’t worked for any nation, and no quip of “but this time it WILL work!” will convince me of its application. The constitution of the Sixth Philippine Republic must strip itself of protectionist economic policies, must be open to anyone who wants to invest, and must truly give freedom of enterprise.

A new constitution squarely based on Objectivist/Libertarian/Tea Party values won’t work, either. Instead, it must be open to allow for the government to provide for those who absolutely could not help themselves. Millions of Filipinos live below the poverty line, and the Constitutions that we’ve had over the years, labeled as “Libertarian” in principle, has not alleviated this condition. Forcing people to be selfish like Ayn Rand is a paradox, and telling all these people to simply get off their asses and “stop mooching for handouts” goes against traditional conservative Philippine values — the same values that are now deteriorating in the face of freewheeling capitalism. Singapore, frequently touted on this site as a capitalist model for what the Philippines could have been, nevertheless has socialized housing, mandatory social security and universal health care.

In terms of how the Philippines must face ecological threats, a new constitution must provide for contingency measures to mitigate its impact on the world. Other countries, regardless of economic status, have enshrined the right to a safe environment for their people, as well as the conservation and responsible exploitation of its cultural and natural resources. Given the constitutionally protected forest reservations of Gabon, to the marine sanctuaries around New Zealand, the Philippines has no excuse not to enshrine strict environmental regulations within a future constitution. Can a new constitution, for example, tackle the inevitable rise in sea levels that would happen within the next century, or the projected catastrophic collapse of its biodiversity? Can it make contingencies in the face of periodic food shortages and other perennial disasters?

Finally, the Sixth Republic must decentralize itself from Manila in order for its heterogenous cultures to be rewarded for their own contributions, as well as for them to be given a chance to grow culturally. But then, responsible oversight must still be wielded by the central government if it wishes the country to avoid Balkanization: coddling, browbeating and veiled threats never got a strong country anywhere.

The Fifth Philippine Republic, created by the first Aquino Administration, is stuck in a time bubble where a tangible systemic is desperately needed, but a vocal yet influential few refuse such change. With the way that the 2016 transfer of power is shaping up, the vision of constitutional transformation seems dim. Are Filipinos willing to accept the new geopolitical and ecological challenges that other nations are now waking up to and create a Sixth Republic, or will the Philippines lag behind as it has always did since 1987, with the fragile pretense of being “more fun“? I just hope I’m not alive if and when the country does choose the latter.

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13 Comments on “Why the Current Philippine Republic Needs to Die”

  1. Along with the aforementioned 60/40 business protectionist clauses that actually HURT the local economy, the 1987 Constitution is seriously flawed in several other ways. The prohibition against foreign land ownership needs to be changed to allow a foreigner to own a reasonable amount of land on which he owns his own house AND LIVES IN IT. The emphasis is meant to protect the country from having absentee landowners who essentially rent land to rich corporations or oligarchs. Nobody really wants the Tolentinos, Marcoses, Villars, Cojuangcos, Zubiris and others to “purchase” the connected lands of 50 or 60 foreign land owners so they can continue business as usual. In other words, a foreigner can own and inherit, as well as pass on to relatives both here and abroad as long as the actual land owner lives on the parcel.

    The only way you will ever have a decent electric supply here is to open up ownership and development to companies who actually know HOW to create and build the necessary infrastructure. In January 2011 I moved to Malaybalay City, Bukidnon and several months later the country started rebuilding the 92 km road between Malaybalay and CDO. To date that road is still not finished 5 years later. A Korean company would have completed it properly in about a year and probably would have built some high bridges to shorten the drive and eliminate some of the dangerous steep mountain driving.

    Then when you write the new Constitution you need to write into it some implementing laws. There is a provision in the current Constitution that prevents family political dynasties, but there are no laws setting forth any guidelines preventing such dynasties. There also is a provision that states education for ALL children is compulsory, yet I would guess that at least 30% of the children of this country never step foot in a classroom. School needs to be 100% free and compulsory for all children. By free I mean free transport, free (factually correct) textbooks and writing supplies. I have been told innumerable times, “your country is rich and that is why you have good schools.” I reply, “My country is rich BECAUSE we have good schools, not the other way around.” Maybe with some education and some incentive to stay here and work, The Philippines might someday emerge from its present day Fourth World status.

  2. Sometimes one wonders whether the Failippines and Failipinos are being run by smart people who are putting them on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

  3. Here’s the 60/40 culprit guys. If you were a foreign investor, would you set up shop in the land of “more fun”?

    The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines
    ARTICLE XII National Economy and Patrimony

    SECTION 2. All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State. The State may directly undertake such activities, or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens. Such agreements may be for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, renewable for not more than twenty-five years, and under such terms and conditions as may be provided by law. In cases of water rights for irrigation, water supply, fisheries, or industrial uses other than the development of water power, beneficial use may be the measure and limit of the grant.

    SECTION 11. No franchise, certificate, or any other form of authorization for the operation of a public utility shall be granted except to citizens of the Philippines or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines at least sixty per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens, nor shall such franchise, certificate, or authorization be exclusive in character or for a longer period than fifty years. Neither shall any such franchise or right be granted except under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires. The State shall encourage equity participation in public utilities by the general public. The participation of foreign investors in the governing body of any public utility enterprise shall be limited to their proportionate share in its capital, and all the executive and managing officers of such corporation or association must be citizens of the Philippines.

    —-

    A constitution for the oligarchs, by the oligarchs, and of the oligarchs. Mabuhay ang mga Ayala, Tan, Sy,…!

    Enjoy it while it lasts

    Source:
    http://www.gov.ph/constitutions/1987-constitution/

  4. slow clap. great article that discusses possible solutions. this is what the candidates should be talking about.

    some additions: anti-monopoly provisions in the new constitution and new taxation rates that will squeeze money from the oligarchs and channel them into social programs.

    sad that a revolution, a true one that will give birth to a more fair government, will be needed before these reforms are put in place. you know, power is never given it is always taken.

  5. “… I know no one at the moment who would be willing to give up a large bulk of their income to the government in exchange for public services.”

    I would. Now this moment has someone that supports income redistribution.

  6. You are wrong about the Nordic countries. They are not socialist. Socialism means that the means of production remains with the government. That’s not the case in the Nordic constitutions. Governments may own infrastructure related business, such as water and power supply, roads and railways, airports and seaports etc. but the entire rest of their economy is in private hands. They have a high tax/high spending policy which you can call Big Government. This is a socialist feature but implementing a few socialist features does not form a socialist state.

    1. It does, if you’re a capitalist and you want essential industries to be privatized, all sorts of regulations to be scaled down if not abolished as inimical to industrial practices, and of course free trade with low low loooooooow taxes.

    2. >> Socialism means that the means of production remains with the government.

      No, that’s national socialism (ie., fascism). The Nordic countries are probably the only genuinely socialist countries on the planet. Their systems are far from perfect, but somehow they’ve managed to make it work. Socialism does not imply state control of anything, nor does it imply a ban on capitalist industry. The only real requirement for a socialist state would be redistribution of income via taxation to support basic needs (food, housing, education etc).

      The Philippines, interestingly enough, is possibly one of the world’s few remaining fascist countries, ie., complete state control of all industry coupled with state control of public opinion (via brainwashing programs, vote-buying, control of media, etc). It is probably also the most successful, with “success” measured according to fascist ideals.

      Philippine culture has always tended towards this government model, but it was consolidated during the Marcos era (I hope the Marcos supporters here do realize that his party was explicitly and unashamedly fascist?). We can see how well THAT’s working out.

  7. CORY CONSTITUTION has more defects than good effects. What CORY had restored, PIGNOY has raped and abused.

    DAANG Palpak, Manhid, Ganid sa Yaman, Ganid sa Laman is one of the glaring defects. Of course, PIGNOY’s psychological flaw (one celled non thinking amoeba) has been added to this erroneous system.

  8. Can someone point me to an article where I can get a detailed explanation (preferably with examples) of how the 60/40 clause affects FDI? Thanks.

  9. I support Duterte’s dream of becoming a federal system in our country. So to know more about it, just go to twitter’s website and use #Fedralism101 on search box and there you could find some of the infos of federal system. Good luck and yes to Philippine’s Federalism. #ChangeIsComing

  10. We have tried democracy but how did it turn out?

    I can’t say what to try next or risk sounding seditious…which is against the law :-(.

    1. well, I’ll answer to your question @juanusicero

      Q: We have tried democracy but how did it turn out?
      A: It’s because of our multi-party system in which it turns out to be #epal, #trapo, #balimbing & #kurakot. A bad democratic system could also cause a bad party system as well, the end justify the means!

      And to know more about it, here’s a blog list coming from 8list.ph and read it!

      http://8list.ph/flaws-philippine-political-party-system/

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