Friday, May 26, 2006

Angara's Chacha Two Step

SENATOR EDGARDO ANGARA (LDP, Laban Ng Demokratikong Pilipino) just told ABSCBN News this evening that he is backing a two-stage agenda in support of Charter Change: (1) to tackle economic provisions of the 1987 Charter this year, possibly in time to synchronize a plebiscite on proposed revisions or amendments with the regularly scheduled 2007 national elections; and (2) to undertake the more complex structural and political reforms implied by a shift to parliamentary and federal systems, in the post-2007 period.

I think Sen. Angara makes a cogent case for Part 1 of the above Chacha agenda. I too support the removal of the so-called "nationalistic" provisions of the 1987 Charter, in particular the ban on foreign ownership of important economic entities, such as land and even Media. To support this position, Sen . Angara points to the singular fact that of the $80 billion US dollars in direct investment that annually flows into Asia, the Philippines gets about 0.2 per cent of the total. Why? Well, he's right. If you are an investor, looking to make multimillion dollar investments in Asian countries, would you do so only to buy into a minority stake in the company or economic enterprise you establish? Of course not. You go elsewhere, to countries where they are more hospitable to capital investments.

Angara's LDP fielded the late Fernando Poe Jr. against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the 2004 elections, along with Senator Loren Legarda for Vice President, against Noli de Castro. While FPJ's electoral protest was rendered moot and academic by his death in late 2004, Loren Legarda's own electoral protest is still alive -- and though it is getting long in the tooth, it is a sign of Angara's own consummate political chessmanship to have it still in play. Considering that most of the "Irreconcilable Opposition" to GMA are united in the belief that she basically cheated her way into office in 2004 -- the seemingly futile, shot-at-the-moon Legarda protest in the Supreme Court, can only draw implicit if not sympathetic support from the broader anti-GMA opposition. Unkind things have been said of Loren Legarda, mainly by anti-Erap civil-society types like Bhel Cunanan and PDI, as well as the Assumptionista high society fashistas, (her fellow Convent alumnae!) ever since she ran with FPJ against GMA-Noli. Including that she had sold out after being the "Crying Lady Senator Judge" of the Erap impeachment trial in 2001. But I don't think we've heard the last of Loren Legarda. She's one tough woman and will have something yet to contribute to the politics of the Philippines. I understand she may run in the 2007 elections for the Senate -- which she once took by storm in 1998, topping the race as a neophyte political candidate with a whopping 15,000,000 votes, a million more than Gloria Macapagal's own Senate-topping run in 1995.

I don't know if the LDP's backing of Chacha, even in the two-step form proposed by Sen. Angara, will help the overall "Arroyo-backed" choochoo train -- as the ABSCBN anchor pointedly put it for Sen. Angara this evening, who corrected him by saying there are others who support Charter change other than the President (and JDV-FVR).

But does Sen. Angara reflect a more broadly held view within the Senate? Although the Upper House is seen to be largely hostile to Chacha because JDV's unicameral Parliament essentially abolishes it, I don't believe the majority of Senators are against reforming those key economic provisions. There is a broad concensus which does exist across the political spectrum that certain economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution are disincentives to the kind of direct foreign investment the country needs, which no amount of protectionist fervor can fill.

Regarding process, an important clarification has emerged. The mode of charter change called a "constituent assembly" is not a specially assembled thing like a constitutional convention. Rather, the Congress, in its normal configuration as two co-equal Houses of the Legislative Branch of government, may, by votes of three-fourths of their members, and of course voting separately as with all laws passed by the Republic, pass amendments and revisions to the Constitution. All that nonsense about three fourths of the entire membership has fallen into the dustbin where it belongs.

The Congress can actually pass all the constitutional amendments it wants to now, but only in the normal manner of a bicameral legislature, and with the higher three-fourths voting requirement, and the people's approval by plebiscite.

FOR THE NEGATIVE, ON REPEAL OF THE MINING LAW may I suggest the following Speech at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club by author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) on Environmentalism as Religion in which I think the money quote is as follows:
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.
I liked this speech so much that I recorded it for anyone who might like to listen to a rendition of it instead of reading the transcript. (MP3)

Now here comes an olde-fashioned BOOK-BURNING, just to complete the scene in Manila.

10 comments:

ellen said...

LDP is now a mess. Who are left in the LDP with Angara? Sotto and Tessie Oreta are not with angara anymore.

Lord Dracula said...

If Loren Legarda runs in 2007 and wins, and her protest not resolved by then, she will get the Santiago bogey. Remember that Miriam Santiago filed an election protest when she ran in the 1992 elections. The PET dismissed her complaint when she ran and won as a senator. The PET argued that running for a senatorial post is an implicit abandonment of the protest.

Legarda should be forewarned. Unless of course she thinks her protest is futile.

Amadeo said...

Dean:

And knowing the San Francisco crowd, Michael Crichton may have been roundly - - booed for his "heresies".

Here in the Bay Area, a Taiwanese immigrant farmer got jail time for ploughing over some endangered species of worm or insect, right in his own farmland.

And the SF Commonwealth Club is one elite and haughty group where prominent people of the area gather, including I surmise cash-rich environmentalists.

the jester-in-exile said...

rizalist,

the book-burning thing... as a pinoy, i'm so ashamed of it. not that i'd stop them (this being a country that's supposed to be a democracy), but i lament the fact that there exists possibly intelligent people steeped in intolerance.

kind of like the spanish inquisition, it seemed to me.

manuelbuencamino said...

DJB,

Turning media over to foreign control? Aren't there national security concerns in this matter? Murdoch had to acquire american citizenship before they allowed him to own media. In england the government doesn't even like the idea of their own citizens owning media.

media is the best medium for propaganda. You don't want that in the hands of non-citizens. That's just basic national security logic. Do you want Iran or Saudi to own a network in Western Mindanao? They have enough money to buy abs, gma, and the government network. one or all of them. You want to allow that?

manuelbuencamino said...

there may ne constitutional provisions that need amending, special those that cannot be remedied by creative legislation. So we can introduce amendments, ala US, when the need arises.

However, I am comfortable with the presidential system and the tri-partite checks and balance approach. This unicameral business coupled with an emasculated court is something that scares me. I have locks on my door why will I want to remove the locks on the national treasury?

The emasculated court idea is passed off by businessmen as part of the predictability argument. They use Manila Hotel and Piatco as examples. They say it's not the court's duty to protect those who enter into a bad bargain/contract. That's true to a certain extent. But what if you have a crooked government that uses a GOCC to get into bad bargains? What if GSIS or SSS sell their assets at a loss to cronies or invest their members assets to help out a crony?

manuelbuencamino said...

The two step approach is okay IF it is protected by a resolution specifying that congress will conctitute itself as a constituent assemby for the sole purpose of amending a specific provision.

If congress is allowed to go into con-ass without specifying what they are allowed and prohibited from touching, any fool can introduce any kind of amendment he fancies..

We might end up with a provision on the freedom of religion that says, "The government guarantees freedom of religion. The government recognizes that there are many different paths to accepting Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior."

Rizalist said...

MB,
Regarding the constituent assembly, I think it has slowly become clear that that mode does not involve the congress convening a special "constituent assembly". They can already pass amendments and revisions in their normal configuration as a bicameral congress, except the proposed "bill of amendment" must pass with 3/4 of the votes of the two Houses voting separately. And also, any such approved bill must be approved further in a plebiscite.

Btw. I am 100% against the Parliamentary shift. I want the presidential system where the people vote directly for the country's top leader.

As for Mindanao, I think it should secede or be set free. After all the Americans just landgrabbed it from the Muslims. It was never Spanish land and wasn't properly sold to them at the Treaty of Paris.

Ricky Carandang said...

DJB:
I'm all for allowing mining. But the problem is that under the current mining law the Philipine government efectively WAIVES ITS RIGHT TO COLLECT ROYALTIES from the mining companies.
That's right, and that's what this government and the mining companies are trying to keep people from talking about.
Lets allow mining but lets get our fair share of those tax revenues.

Rizalist said...

HI there Ricky. Nice of you to drop by.
Say I was just perusing the Supreme Court Decision on the Mining Act (link is in the post above) and find this section:

"

The basic government share is comprised of all direct taxes, fees and royalties, as well as other payments made by the contractor during the term of the FTAA. These are amounts paid directly to (i) the national government (through the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Mines & Geosciences Bureau and other national government agencies imposing taxes or fees), (ii) the local government units where the mining activity is conducted, and (iii) persons and communities directly affected by the mining project. The major taxes and other payments constituting the basic government share are enumerated below: [65]

Payments to the National Government:

· Excise tax on minerals - 2 percent of the gross output of mining operations

· Contractor' income tax - maximum of 32 percent of taxable income for corporations

· Customs duties and fees on imported capital equipment -the rate is set by the Tariff and Customs Code (3-7 percent for chemicals; 3-10 percent for explosives; 3-15 percent for mechanical and electrical equipment; and 3-10 percent for vehicles, aircraft and vessels

· VAT on imported equipment, goods and services – 10 percent of value

· Royalties due the government on minerals extracted from mineral reservations, if applicable – 5 percent of the actual market value of the minerals produced"
Seems like the government and the indigenous peoples are all entitled to royalties. But did they not reflect this in the IRR or something?