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Let us be circumspect

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CBCP President Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (Photo: CBCPNews)

Pastoral Statement on Amending the Constitution

LATELY, we have been urged by different prominent persons and influential sectors to consider the amendment of the Constitution.

While amendments having to do with the form of government are matters that we, your bishops, leave to politicians and to their discernment, proposed amendments in respect to economic provisions bear directly on issues of social justice. The social encyclicals of the Church bear witness to the fact that the Church has always considered social justice an area of her competence and solicitude.

It has been advanced as a reason for the call to amend the provisions of the Constitution that the restrictive provisions limiting foreign participation in the Philippine economy have in fact been prejudicial to economic growth. Foreign investment and the infusion of foreign capital into the country have been held at bay by what some characterize as the unduly stringent provisions of the Constitution.

We will not forget of course, that the framers of the 1987 Constitution — and even the members of the Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1973 Constitution — had one purpose in enshrining those restrictions, a purpose fully in accord with the precepts of social justice: preserving the wealth and resources of the country for our countrymen.

Rightly, we have always steered away from the prospect of foreigners enriching themselves by the country’s resources and our labor force, transferring their earnings overseas, and leaving us none the better because of their presence and their exploitation of our resources, both natural and human! This should remain a paramount principle.

Now, however, we are told that limiting foreign control of some corporations, such as banks, media, advertisement, including the operation of public utilities and the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources has been counterproductive. It is claimed that we have so many resources that remain untapped — beneficial to none — because local capital is just woefully insufficient for capital-intensive ventures.

Before we rush into amending the Constitution, we, your bishops, urge all responsible to conduct serious studies in economics, sociology, the law and in related disciplines including the Catholic social teachings, that should provide us with clear answers to the following questions:

1. What do we, as a nation, stand to gain from relaxing the provisions now deemed restrictive?
2. How are we assured that the resources of the country, both natural and human, benefit Filipino nationals principally?
3. What are the human, social and environmental costs of lifting present limits to foreign participation in Philippine economic and business affairs?

We urge competent Catholic lay persons to study these questions, and others that they may find relevant, with assiduousness and diligence, and to share with us, particularly with the CBCP, their findings. We welcome the truly scholarly and diligent analyses of all. With these studies, we can more wisely look at the move to amend the Constitution in the light of our Christian faith.

Only then shall we be prepared to take a moral stand in respect to the proposed amendment of the Constitution.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, June 8, 2015

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

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