Resist US imperialist push for charter change!

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines
August 18, 2011

US imperialism is now vigorously pushing the local ruling reactionary classes to subject the 1987 Philippine constitution to amendments. Working with key economic and financial officials of the Aquino regime, US Ambassador Harry Thomas is now openly campaigning for charter change, completely disregarding Philippine sovereignty and in outright violation of the principle of non-interference between sovereign states.

The US imperialist ambassador has publicly espoused the position of the US government to amend the 1987 constitution to remove provisions prohibiting foreign entities from holding majority stakes in companies operating in the Philippines. He has also publicly expressed exhilaration over the fact that key officials of the Aquino government—including the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the House Speaker and Senate President—have already declared their openness to changing the economic provisions of the Philippine constitution.

The US government and officials of the Aquino regime are working hand in glove to have the Philippines included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a so-called "free trade" bloc that aims to eliminate tariffs by 2015 among participating countries which include Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the US. The US ambassador has outrightly declared that for the Philippines to join the TPP, the Aquino regime must amend the Philippine constitution.

The Filipino people must exert all effort to resist the US-instigated campaign for charter change ("cha-cha"). The amendments being pushed by the US aim to further diminish Philippine economic sovereignty which has already been significantly weakened in the past twenty-five years by the liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization policies of successive puppet regimes. The amendments being pushed by the US will complete the economic recolonization of the Philippines and lead to ever deeper crisis.

In reality, though, the provisions of the 1987 constitution which are supposed to protect economic sovereignty have never really stopped the imperialists from ravishing the Philippines’ national patrimony. Since the late 1980s, a number of economic laws have been enacted in compliance with policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund which sought, among others, to further open up the economy to the operations of foreign monopoly capitalists. In line with these policies, numerous laws have been passed which have made a mockery of the Philippine constitution.

Right after the 1987 constitution was enacted, the Corazon Aquino regime pushed for the passage of the Omnibus Investments Code which exempted foreign entities from the 60% rule in operating local enterprises in so-called pioneer projects and priority areas of investment. Investment laws for foreign capitalists were further liberalized by the Foreign Investments Act of 1991. Through one amendment after another, these laws further relaxed regulations and provided incentives to foreign capitalist investors.

In subsequent years, more laws were passed favoring foreign capitalists. In 1995, the Special Economic Zone Act was passed. This was followed by related laws creating the special economic zones in Cagayan, Zamboanga City and in the Calabarzon area where foreign investors were given full freedom to operate. In 1994, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was ratified under which the all-out liberalization of trade and investment laws was further carried out. Further laws were enacted that liberalized foreign investments, among them the Bank Liberalization Law of 1994, the Build-Operate-Transfer Law of 1994, the Mining Act of 1995, the Oil Deregulation Law of 1997 and the Investment House Liberalization of 1997.

To create an environment "attractive" to foreign investors, laws were passed which further suppressed Filipino workers and pulled down the cost of Filipino labor. In 1989, the Wage Regionalization Act was enacted to counter demands for wage increases and abolish national minimum wage standards. In the same year, the Herrera Law was enacted which amended the Labor Law, allowed labor contractualization and imposed additional restrictions on the right to strike. This law was taken advantage of by capitalists to further push down wages and prevent workers from establishing labor unions. For more than twenty years, workers’ wages have been virtually at a standstill, falling way behind the rapid rise in the cost of living and condemning Filipino workers to ever worsening social conditions. Since then, the number of unions and unionized workers in the Philippines has dropped by more than 80%.

Successive IMF-approved Medium Term Philippine Development Plans (MTPDPs) were implemented by the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo regimes. All these were marked by efforts to bring in foreign investors to do business in the Philippines and fully exploit cheap labor power of Filipino workers. Foreign capital was invested in privatized and deregulated industries such as power generation, water and electricity distribution utilities, road infrastructure, transportation and in business process outsourcing to take advantage of the deregulated regime and generate assured profits for big foreign monopoly capitalists.

None of the past four foreign-investment oriented six-year programs was able to address the need to develop the local economy. There has been a continuous decline in manufacturing, which is generally considered as the engine of an economy that creates value. The number of manufacturing firms has fallen from 7,500 in 1999 to just 4,600 in 2008 with a concomitant drop in employment from 1.1 million to 860,000 or a decline of 4% percent in its share in total employment. Manufacturing contributes only around 23% of the total gross domestic product—the same level it was more than 50 years ago.

For several decades now, "attracting foreign investments" has been the key element in the economic programs designed by IMF-trained technocrats of all past puppet regimes. However, for sixty five years under the neocolonial republic, the Philippine economy has been in a constant state of crisis, unable to achieve self-reliance and always dependent on the foreign loans and capital infusion. The wealth being created by the Filipino peasantry and working class is constantly being siphoned out by big foreign capitalists and consumed by the parasitic local ruling classes.

Unemployment, landlessness, poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease and other social maladies worsen from one decade to another. As the ruling puppet states constantly serve the interests of big foreign capital, they are increasingly unable to address the people’s economic needs and have constantly shifted the burden of crisis on the working people. While foreign capitalists are provided with tax incentives and tax havens, the broad masses are fleeced with more and more taxes. While foreign capitalists are allowed full freedom to raise prices, workers’ wages are constantly held back. While more and more funds are allocated to partner with foreign big business, public spending on social services experience bigger and bigger budget slashes.

In pushing for amendments to the 1987 constitution, the US imperialists and their local political henchmen aim to do away with all pretensions to economic sovereignty. They seek to break down all barriers and allow foreign big capital to plunder the local economy with impunity.

The US imperialist push to amend the Philippine constitution is closely linked to the desperation of the US government in the face of one of its worst economic recession. By seeking to shatter the economic boundaries of the Philippines and other semicolonies, it aims to open up the Philippines’ remaining economic frontiers for American capitalists to expand their sourcing of raw materials and cheap labor. It seeks to subject the Filipino working class to ever disastrous working terms and conditions. It seeks to further drown the Filipino peasantry in debt and bankruptcy as a result of the unmitigated dumping of foreign agricultural products.

US imperialist spinmeisters are acutely aware of the political dangers of coming all-out for charter change. Under the past three regimes, attempts to push for charter change have been widely opposed by the people as these have been invariably linked to the political ambitions of the ruling clique. In pushing for charter change, the tacticians of the US Embassy in Manila are trying to generate a pro-"chacha" groundswell by gathering the support of key officials of the judiciary and legislature. A number of them, including the chief puppet baton holder Juan Ponce Enrile, have issued statements in favor of amending the 1987 constitution, carefully avoiding the issue of extending the terms of office of government officials.

However, if the US and its puppets decisively push "chacha", they will ultimately have to contend with the Filipino people’s determined resistance to further imperialist domination, oppression and exploitation. In resisting the US-instigated "chacha", the Filipino people sharply oppose the neoliberal framework of imperialist globalization that calls for the complete breakdown of protective national barriers of semicolonial countries while trade and investment walls continue to stand high in imperialist countries.

After almost three decades of worsening conditions resulting from the IMF-imposed policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization, the Filipino people clamor for national sovereignty and demand nationalist policies in the field of economics. They seek an end to foreign economic domination and a radical shift in economic policy that will put the interests of the Filipino people above all.