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FIRING LINE: Cha-cha motivations

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

As loud as the firecrackers of New Year, the push for Charter change or Cha-cha is exploding in our midst; it now becomes incumbent among us to scrutinize the dubious premises laid out for altering the nearly four-decade-old Philippine Constitution.

After all, we citizens are footing the bill of P14 billion our congressmen sandwiched ever so neatly in the 2024 budget for that purpose.

President Marcos’s resigned undersecretary of finance, Cielo Magno, academically questions the need for constitutional amendments, particularly the dubious claim that allowing foreign investors to own land is paramount for economic growth.

Drawing a parallel with Vietnam, a thriving ASEAN neighbor, reveals that successful foreign investments can flourish without such constitutional changes. The critical obstacles hampering the Philippines’ attractiveness for foreign investments are rooted in corruption, inadequate business practices, subpar education, and deficiencies in infrastructure – none of which hinges on land ownership.

The glaring question persists: Why is the government fixated on constitutional amendments when existing laws, like the Public Service Act and Department of Energy circulars, have already paved the way for foreign investments without resorting to altering the Constitution?

P14-B misplaced priority

 At this point, I cannot fathom how the likes of Speaker Martin Romualdez can justify the staggering P14 billion set aside for Cha-cha. Amid subpar education, healthcare challenges, and a beat-up transport sector, among others, putting that much money on Cha-cha should spark outrage.

The speed at which Congress and the Marcos administration approved this budget raises questions about their fiscal responsibility and priorities. This substantial sum could have been utilized to address more pressing concerns such as improving education, healthcare, and infrastructural development.

Misleading Cha-cha ad

And then there’s the issue with this TV ad that’s been labelled the “EDSA pwera,” stirring controversy with its misleading and evidently partisan agenda. The minority bloc in the House of Representatives is right to call for an investigation into the sources of funds behind this campaign. House Resolution No. 1541 demands clarity on whether or not government funds were utilized or if foreign interests are covertly influencing constitutional change for their benefit.

The ad is supposedly funded by the Gana, Atienza, Avisado Law Office, which conveniently scapegoats the Constitution for the country’s woes. The ad implies a correlation between constitutional provisions and issues like corruption and poverty. The People’s Initiative for Modernization and Reform Action (PIRMA) denies using public funds but raises eyebrows by identifying the law offices as the source.

Moreover, the alleged signature campaign exchanging aid and gifts in Luzon villages further taints the legitimacy of this Cha-cha movement. The deceptive practices surrounding this campaign undermine the genuine essence of “people’s initiative” and cast doubt on the motivations driving constitutional amendments.

Many netizens have been flooding social media chatboxes with doubts that this whole exercise is aimed only at two things — term extensions for elected officials and painting the Constitution as a poisonous fruit of the People Power revolt that ousted the current president’s infamous father.

 
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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at https://www.thephilbiznews.com

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