“We look for foreigners to invest in this country; yet, we treat them as pariah. We discriminate against them in many subtle ways.”
by Ducky Paredes
Clearly, the present constitution, written by a committee of 50 chosen by a President with little experience at politics or governance, is not a perfect document. Anyone can nitpick the document and come up with a valid lists of faults and, as they say in sports lingo, unforced errors.
For instance, in the provisions one how the document can be amended, there are faults that need to be recast for these to even become workable. Will there be one Constituent Assembly or two CAs — one in the House and one in the Senate? If two, why is the term in the singular and not in the plural? Or, was the first draft of the Constitution written for a single parliamentary body which was later changed to a two house parliament to get back to what we had prior to Martial Law? Thus, are we now stymied in trying to effect changes because only of poor editing by whoever of the 50 writers was supposed to do the final edit?
Is it to the interest of the country and the majority of us Pinoys that foreigners are disallowed from owning real estate? Does this not protect only our local elite’s interests, the bulk of whose assets are in land? Does not this provision only perpetuate the power of the landed over the rest of society since most of us – at least 90% — have no means to acquire any land at all? Does not this provision encourage the wealthy Pinoys to continue accumulate land pointlessly instead of using their resources to establish enterprises that would employ their fellow Pinoys? Why do we have so many unemployed? Because the rich Pinoy is loath to put his money where he should be putting it – into enterprises that employ fellow Pinoys and create wealth for the nation and the investor.
We look for foreigners to invest in this country; yet, we treat them as pariah. We discriminate against them in many subtle ways. For instance, notice that most golf course have different rates for locals and foreigners. Why must this be? Is it because most of the local golfers are land-owning gentry and dislike the idea of foreign investors coming into the country?
A foreigner owning land in the Philippines cannot take this with him if he ever leaves the country. So, why do we have that provision even as many of our landed gentry own real estate in many parts of the world. The point is that most of us do not own any land at all nor can the majority afford any. So, why protect the very few Pinoys who have the wherewithal to purchase land when a foreign investor would buy land to put up a business that would employ hundreds of Pinoys even as the wealthy Pinoy would rather put his money in a bank or into real estate without using it to give employment or increase the country’s productivity?
The same thing goes for all the sectors in which foreign investors are disallowed. Why do we have decrepit ships ferrying us and our goods around the archipelago? Because only Pinoys can own transportation companies. Again, how does this promote the interests of the majority of Pinoys. How many of the 80 million or more Pinoys can own or even invest in a shipping line?
Certainly, with more people (foreigners included) investing in shipping, we would see some improvement – maybe even just in newer vessels – in our shipping industry? The same thing would apply to other protected industries – newspapers, broadcast, power and so on. Foreign ownership will mean better service from these companies.
As it is, we compete with the world even as we operate insularly in the Philippines. All sorts of goods and services are available all over the world for all sorts of things and comparisons as to quality, pricing and such are available to anyone.
The best way to keep the foreign investor at bay is to be better than he is. What we are doing with these protective provisions is making sure that there is no incentive for the Pinoy to be the best in the world by keeping competition – the best in the world — away from our shores. Who does this protect? Only the mediocre or the landed gentry whose comfort zone consists in keeping the rest of us Pinoys poor and unemployed. This way, they can continue to lord it over the rest of us.
Another provision that needs to be reworked is the one on the multi-party system. This is simply not working for us. Even our presidential system sucks. A six-year term is too short for a good president but two days is too long for an awful one. Besides, we have seen it again and again — electing a President by popular vote is just not the way to choose a good one.
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I must clarify that, while I am not for the convening of a Constituent Assembly at this time when the present leader is reluctant to end her term as provided by the Constitution, I must reject the idea that any change in the Constitution is unwelcome or treaonous.
That Constitution needs to be changed so that it will work for the majority of Pinoys. As written, this is an elitist document that protects the landed gentry and the old rich but does nothing for the majority of us who are dirt-poor, landless and have no real future to look to.
A Constitution should serve the majority of the people – not just the blessed few.
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hvp 12.22.08)Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com