THERE is a good chance that the House of Representatives passes Rep. Rufus Rodriguez's House Bill 7352. Roughly this calls for revisions of the 1987 Cory Constitution through a constitutional convention (con-con). It may be noted that amendments and revisions come in three modes: people's initiative (PI); consultative assembly (con-ass), preferred by the Senate counterpart, chaired by Sen. Robinhood Padilla; and con-con. PI is out of consideration as this mostly refers to specific amendments. The other two call for revisions.

Con-ass, the preferred mode of Senator Padilla hews close to the desire of the Senate to input directly into the constitutional revisions. Although it has been touted that only the economic provisions are to be revised, once the 1987 Constitution is touched, all bets are off. There is the temptation to go for structural-political reforms. The vested interests will get into the act, to protect and enhance their prerogatives. The oligarchy and the political dynasties that have been riding herd on the economic and political life of the nation will continue to influence the changes in the constitution.

Con-ass vs con-con

Con-ass will involve the members of the Senate and the House jointly revising the Constitution. But with political dynasties and allies of the oligarchy dominating 80 percent of both houses, the finished product could be highly flawed. Also, protection of the Senate's status is their priority. Note that in the American presidential-federal system, two senators are voted each by the states; thus, their Senate is composed of 100 senators. The mongrelized version was adopted by the Philippines where 24 senators together with the president of the Republic are elected universally.

The third option, con-con, as proposed by Representative Rodriguez could be the better alternative, provided a combination of elected delegates is balanced with the appointed 50 percent chosen delegates. The reason behind this is a pragmatic reading of our election system. Most of those that will be elected delegates would be the moneyed ones, members of political dynasties whose clans and family interests take precedence. The Rodriguez argument behind the chosen appointed constitutional experts is that the marginalized sectors — who could never afford to win an electoral campaign, can counter and balance these dynasts — and give the progressive agenda a chance to be debated.

Economic provisions

Both houses of the legislature and even the President himself has signified that only the economic provisions in the Constitution need revisions. The series of columns I wrote was an attempt to present a case against this myopic appreciation of what ails the country. Our basic argument is that the systemic anomalies embedded in the three Philippine Constitutions (1935, 1973 and 1987) are the root causes and that the current initiatives to revise the Constitution are simply applying remedial treatments to the symptoms. Thus, revisions of only the economic provisions will merely be applying palliatives. And more dangerously, this will give a false sense of accomplishments — pagbabago, a patina of reforms, cosmetic changes — while the underlying systemic anomalies remain untouched.

1987 Article XII

Both the Senate and House are in agreement that Article XII of the 1987 Constitution contains restrictive economic provisions that prevent foreign direct investments (FDI) from pouring into the country. Representative Rodriguez and Senator Padilla are one in pronouncing that the 60-40 percent ownership provisions on Sections 2, 10 and 11, respectively, on land ownership, on investments and on public utilities, discourage foreign investors to build business in the country.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that over the years, the inability of the Philippines to attract FDIs are mainly why we are now where we are — the tailender among the economies in Asia; when we were No. 2 to Japan, post- World War 2. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (central bank) data show an accelerated dismal drop of FDI pre-pandemic of 23.2 percent decline in 2022 compared to 2021 and 76.2 percent drop year-end 2022. Senator Padilla was quoted as saying that the country needs "drivers of growth including opening up the economy to more FDI."

The Foreign Chambers of Commerce, champions of market economy and of globalization, simply want the removal of all economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution and regulate industries via laws passed by Congress. The all-encompassing proviso to be inserted in the revised constitution of 2023 — "unless otherwise provided by law" or "as may be defined by law" to "each and every one of the [new] economic provisions" — simple, elegant, beautiful and dangerous.

To digress, this phrase has already been inserted in many provisions of the 1987 Constitution. A glaring example is the constitutional provision banning political dynasties — an evil in the political structure of the country that allows a monopoly of political power within a democracy.

Article II, Section 26 provides that "the state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law." Our Congress, composed of 80 percent dynasts, refused to enforce the constitutional ban through that phrase "unless otherwise provided by law." Perhaps, we need to examine clearly whose interests are being served.

Clearly revisions of the 1987 Constitution can't be confined only to the economic provisions — and more particularly, can't be left to the current Senate and House alone. Indeed there are progressive and right-thinking senators and congressmen but the centuries-old political system and our method of governance have so perverted our concepts of democracy, republicanism and sense of justice that we should be wary of who will tinker with our saligang batas, the Constitution.

Constitution of 2023

The ideal compromise in these constitutional revisions may be to disallow the members of the Senate and House to tinker with the Constitution via the Robinhood's con-ass. On the other hand, Rodriguez's con-con may be the right path provided the following compromises are put in place:

Allow a universal election for delegates, but disallow ex-members of the two chambers, the party lists and their relatives up to a certain degree of consanguinity from running as delegates. We don't want dynasts to be part of their own restructuring. It is oxymoronic!

And in this hybrid con-con, who does the appointing of the 50 percent delegates? The president could appoint but these people must be known qualified experts in the constitution making or at least those recommended by organizations and men and women of probity; NGOs, civil society, academe, political parties, fellowship of business, professionals and community leaders, like the Rotary, Jaycees and Lion's Clubs, etc.? The devil truly is in the details. So far, the Rodriguez committee hasn't been clear on these.

And more importantly, after the new constitution is ratified, the delegates who authored the new constitution of 2023 should be prevented from running for any elected office for a prescribed period.

The crafting of this new constitution on the carcasses of the old constitutions runs full circle. Marcos pere once attempted it in 1973, which his nemesis then proceeded to abrogate, fashioning the 1987 document. Both failed. The 2023 Constitution could be BBM's legacy, finally healing the wounds of the past, but more importantly, thrust the country toward where it should belong. Among the developing economies in Asia.


The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.
“Then I fall to my knees, shake a rattle at the skies and I’m afraid that I’ll be taken, abandoned, forsaken in her cold coffee eyes.” – A quote from the song, “She moves on” by Paul Simon, singer/songwriter

THE recent tremors affecting the central provinces of Mindanao caused by a series of seismic waves radiating to the northern and southern parts of the island, were like nature shaking a rattle, emitting sharp sounds and unnerving motions from the underground, both frightening and bewildering as to the intensity and confusion they generated.

The successive earthquakes and aftershocks were rattling the nerves not only of residents close to the epicenter but also those living along the active fault planes who were not used to strong earth movements. Some reported dizziness, anxiety, depression and other post-traumatic stress symptoms after experiencing continuous shaking and periodic vibrations.

As this article was written, less frequent but perceptible tremors were felt on the affected areas although everyone is reportedly bracing for aftershocks which many hope and pray, would not turn out to be the dreaded “big one,” as some irresponsible persons are falsely posting on social media. Shake a rattle drum to this latter blokes.

According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), since the 1900s, Mindanao has been rocked by at least 35 earthquakes, three of which, felt at “Intensity 7” or worse, were deemed destructive: the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake which caused a tsunami reaching up to nine meters that killed about 8,000 people including the unaccounted ones; the 1999 series of earthquakes in Agusan del Sur damaging roads, and poorly constructed schools and infrastructure; and the Sultan Kudarat earthquake in 2002, killing eight people with 41 others injured and affecting over seven thousand families in the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato (Rappler 2019). Shake a rattle of prayers for all who perished in these tragedies.

The series of earthquakes in October of this year, just weeks apart, with magnitudes of over 6 hitting many provinces, again, in Cotabato and southern parts of Davao accounted for the death toll of 22, damaging homes, school buildings and many infrastructure, shaking and sending chills to many residents who have to deal with continuing albeit smaller tremors which can be felt as far up the city of Cagayan de Oro and down the southern province of Sarangani.

Some local officials reported residents having developed “earthquake phobia” keeping watch on their clock hanging inside their tents in evacuation sites, losing sleep with anxiety awaiting when the next tremor would be coming. With frayed nerves, some would panic over even slight ground shakings.

But this is not about the temblor as much as the response of people and the country’s leaders and responsible officials. Except for the government of China which donated P22 million in aid and support for relief efforts in Mindanao, hurray for China, other foreign countries just expressed condolences and messages of sympathy to families of victims. No pledges, no assistance. Perhaps, they can’t trust our government agencies to do the job for them anymore. To them, a shake of the baby rattle.

To the initial bunch of donors who immediately come with their financial assistance such as Yorme Isko Moreno of Manila with his P5 million personal money, Mayor Vico Sotto with relief goods and P14 million coming from the people of Pasig City, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina with 100 modular tents, movie star Angel Locsin who moved about sans fanfare for her charity work offering food and other assistance to victims in Davao and North Cotabato, to Mayor Inday Duterte for relief distribution, Cebu provincial government for disaster relief campaign and to the many nameless others who came with their relief aids, shake a rattle of joy and thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.

To our government officials and politicians goes our appeal to set aside politics, distribute the relief items according to the wishes of their donors and not allow goods to rot because of political colors as was shown in the previous administration’s handling of donated goods. To them, shake a rattle of enlightenment and peace.

In whatever disaster or crisis that befalls the country, trust Filipinos’ resiliency and coping mechanisms such as resorting to prayers and humor to come to their succor.

Social media become a natural venue for memes, practical jokes and bantering such as the ones which came after Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy reportedly claimed that he caused to stop the earthquakes so they can no longer create damage. To everyone, shake a rattle of laughter and fun while we help provide for the needs of our less fortunate brethren in Cotabato and Davao provinces.