EDITORIAL: Same Music, Different Tune?*

June 21, 2013

The Aquino government scored a victory in the May 2013 elections – though questions of the elections’ credibility linger – with the administration coalition garnering nine (9) out of twelve (12) Senatorial slots, bringing the majority’s control to 18 out of 24, or three-fourths, of the Senate seats.

This has undoubtedly heartened the Presidency, and his minions wasted no time, soon as the dust of the elections has settled, to sound out a call for “needed reforms”.

On the day of the elections itself, Finance Minister Cesar Purisfima made his views public on several economic measures that government will “lobby for” when Congress opens on July 2014. These include a new revenue-sharing scheme between government and mining firms, amendments to the charter of the country’s Central bank, and the opening up of the practice of professions to foreign nationals.

Stalwarts of Aquino’s Liberal Party and majority of the recently-elected and sitting Senators have likewise risen in chorus, stating that charter change was timely, though some were quick to add qualifiers – “economic provisions only’ – as if these were less detrimental to the national economy than political term extensions. Others are craftier – take the piecemeal approach by amending executive or legislative issuances – thus circumventing the need for Constitutional amendment.

Apparently, the clamor for charter change among our high government officials were rekindled by a US demand during the US-Philippines Society forum held in January this year, that the Philippines implement charter change to qualify for membership in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. The TPP aims at further “liberalizing” the economies of its member countries.

Aware of the politically sensitive nature of the Charter change issue, however, President Aquino has adopted a rather coy public stance, saying it was not his administration’s priority at present. Perhaps Aquino was still reflecting on how such changes – of which the opening up of land ownership to foreigners is also a major demand – could impact on his own family’s interests, being one of the biggest landowners in the country. Perhaps his administration will opt for the “piecemeal” approach, fearful as it is of the public backlash that had similarly whipped previous governments which attempted to carry out Cha-Cha.

After all, “economic liberalization” – imperialist globalization’s monicker – is now a lot more difficult to justify in light of the raging crises of governance and economic hemorrhaging in various parts of the globe where governments had faithfully adhered to these policies.

It is perhaps this reality that compels President Aquino to play the coy maiden at the moment. It is no reason, however, for the public to let down our guard.

*This is the editorial from the CBBRC Update April-June 2013 issue.