'They were in favor before': Rodriguez calls out business groups for Cha-cha flip-flop

At a glance

  • Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (In photo, center) calls out the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) for flip-flopping on their position on the Charter change (Cha-cha) issue.

  • (Photo from Facebook)

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has called out several business groups for walking back on their position to amend the Constitution’s “restrictive” economic provisions.

In particular, Rodriguez named the Makati Business Club (MBC) and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) as the organizations that have changed their stand in their recent statement on Charter change (Cha-cha).

“MBC and Finex are now against Charter amendments. Before this position, they were in favor of changing the Constitution’s economic provisions,” he said in a statement Sunday morning, March 26.

Rodriguez chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, which did the heavy lifting in passing Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No.6 in the chamber.

In a joint statement on Friday, March 24, MBC, Finex, Filipina CEO Circle, Judicial Reform Initiative, Philippine Women’s Economic Network, and Women Business Council of the Philippines opposed the current House initiative to rewrite the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions via constitutional convention (con-con).

They cited the high cost of funding a con-con that would propose the amendments, the investment promotion campaign of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and recently enacted laws that aim to relax certain economic restrictions.

Rodriguez said MBC and Finex had favored Charter reform in previous position papers sent to his committee.

In a position paper dated Sept. 11, 2019, the Makati Business Club said it was reiterating its “long-running support” to lift investment restrictions in the Constitution.

“Among other means, we support adding the words ‘unless otherwise provided by law,’ following the constitutional provisions that set the limits on various sectors. In a competitive global economy, we believe in lower barriers to trade and investment in general. In a dynamic global economy, we believe any barriers should be subject to modification by the President and Congress, better than being fixed in the Constitution,” the club said.

“Further economic liberalization will bring in new players and technology, who will boost competition on price and quality, benefiting Filipino consumers,” it said.

Finex, in a letter to the Rodriguez committee last Feb. 17, said it agreed with House members on the need to amend the Charters economic provisions, “which have resulted in the most restrictive economic environment among our peer countries and have impeded foreign investments".

“We note that in almost all countries in the world, restrictions on foreign investments are not contained in their Constitutions. Instead, restrictions  on foreign trade and investments are done through legislation or administrative orders that can be changed to suit shifting national priorities,” it said.

Finex also supported the proposed convening of a con-con to propose the amendments.

Rodriguez also cited the Jan. 22, 2021 joint statement of several business organizations, including MBC, Finex, Filipina CEO Circle, Management Association of the Philippine, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Judicial Reform Initiative, more than a year before the May 2022 elections.

In their statement, the groups urged candidates “to express their support for the relaxation of restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution and commit to initiate steps for the adoption of such provisions within the first 12 months of their term".

“So we in the House and some supporters in the Senate are on the right track. We are following the recommendations of these big business groups, including their suggested timeline,” the Mindanaoan said.

Approved on third and final reading by the House last March 6, RBH No.6 calls for the creation of a con-con, the delegates of which would be tasked to come up with potential amendments to the existing Charter.