PNoy: Cha-cha push might delay economic progress

Posted at 07/14/12 1:48 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Amending the economic provisions of the Constitution might just delay economic progress, according to President Aquino.

“Changing the Constitution changes the rules of the game which might only delay the progress,” he said.

Aquino is standing pat against efforts to revise certain economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, noting the economy has been doing well despite the current global economic slowdown.

“Even with the present Constitution, I think we are capable of reaching the economic heights that we want,” he pointed out.

One proof that would probably convince advocates of Charter change to think twice is the fact that the economy grew by a resounding 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012, when both the US and Europe were suffering from meltdowns, he said.

“Why don’t we look at the evidence? We grew by 6.4 percent when almost the rest of the world was on an economic slowdown. The Americans have this saying: Don’t fix what ain’t broke,” Aquino argued.

Aquino, however, expressed willingness to listen to what Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. – who have been openly pushing for Charter amendments on economic provisions – have to say.

“I would want to listen to their points also. We are in a democracy, you have to listen to differing ideas and come up with what’s best for our people,” Aquino said.

He noted the efforts to introduce new economic provisions to the Charter would entail time and resources.

Apart from time constraints, and the prospect of achieving significant growth in the economy without having to amend the Charter, Aquino also raised the possibility that opening the Constitution to amendments would result in a free-for-all.

“There’s one theory that if you open it to amendments, then you cannot limit what provisions they want included,” Aquino said.

“Once you open it for amendments, you cannot limit it only to economic provisions,” he said.

Aquino pointed out that this excludes the problem of what mode will it be – constitutional convention or constitutional assembly.

“It is not an easy task to change the Constitution. That has to be discussed really thoroughly, what is the basis? What is the proof that such a move will redound to the benefit of our people?” he asked.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, urged the administration Liberal Party (LP) to take a unified position on Charter change (Cha-cha) despite the President’s stand against introducing amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Drilon has been supportive of the Charter change moves, following last year’s meeting with Enrile and Belmonte.

The two leaders are initiating talks to change certain provisions of the 25-year-old Constitution.

Asked for developments on the issue, Drilon said Thursday that he will recommend to his partymates at the LP to have a unified stand on the issue even as Aquino has said he is against it.

Aquino ran and won under the LP.

“I don’t know the developments. I have not talked to the senator, to the President. I would suggest that we take a party position on this, so that the LP will have a unified position on Cha-cha,” Drilon said.

Sen. Edgardo Angara yesterday also expressed support for Charter amendments but through a constituent assembly. He said a constitutional convention would be too costly.

Angara said he is amenable to the need to change the political and economic provisions in the Constitution.

“Economic politics. You’ve got to change the political structure. We have a bad economy because of bad political structure. If you don’t cure the political structure, and it’s too centralized and too dependent on the President... we’ve got to change the system of dependency and patronage,” Angara said.

Aquino said Thursday that he has not discussed the issue yet with Enrile and Belmonte, who both manifested their intention to push for economic amendments to the fundamental law of the land that partly negated economic growth.

Last weekend, Sen. Joker Arroyo said it might be time to review the 1987 Constitution because it has become “outmoded.”

Angara shared Arroyo’s views that Cha-cha moves will not prosper without Aquino’s blessing.

Presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino’s refusal to amend the Constitution had nothing to do with the legacy of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino.

“Certainly, there is nothing personal here,” Valte said. “He never mentioned that.”

She said what the President meant was that it would be a very tedious process that would entail and eat up quite a significant function of both houses of Congress whose job is to legislate.

In short, there is no urgency to introduce amendments to the fundamental law of the land. Simply put, the government can live or can do without modifying the economic provisions in the 25-year-old Charter, touted internationally as the “Freedom Constitution.” – With Christina Mendez