Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the December 10 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“Why should we blame lawmakers if their intention is to improve the lives of the people?” – Representative Antonio Cerilles

A year and a half ago, Representative Prospero Nograles, then a loyal lieutenant of Speaker Jose De Venecia, voiced unequivocal support for his principal’s call for a total moratorium on charter change.

“I totally agree that Charter change should be held in abeyance until the next president gets elected and the new set of government officials can decide on this issue. If ever, we just ought to hold a Constitutional Convention and elect delegates to draft and amend the Constitution,” he said.

Last February, two days after Malacañang substituted him for De Venecia, Nograles announced, “I am not a puppet of Malacañang or a lapdog of anyone. I will not lick the foot of anyone.”

And, to prove he was nobody’s fool, he added, “I am against pushing for the Cha-cha before 2010.”

Last March, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Batasan Annex, the newly installed Speaker reiterated his opposition to Cha-cha.

“There will be no Cha-cha under my watch. Charter change should take place after we elect our new leaders in 2010, ” he said.

Last May, he said, “Stomach first. We cannot debate on the form of government on an empty stomach.”

Recently, a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report showed that Nograles’ colleagues ignored his anti-Chacha pronouncements:

“Since the 14th Congress opened In July last year, Charter change initiatives have come up to a total of 30 measures — seven bills, nine concurrent resolutions, two joint resolutions, and 12 House resolutions.”

(Ironically, only opposition lawmakers agreed with Nograles on his stand against Charter change. They filed a resolution to reject “any amendments and all moves to amend the 1987 Constitution before the 2010 elections including the proposed convening of Congress into a constituent assembly.”)

Congress, it seems, was never under Nograles’ watch. Nograles himself was not under Nograles’ watch.

Last August, he filed House Resolution 737, a resolution proposing amendments to sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the Constitution, the provisions covering national economy and patrimony.

Nograles said his resolution is the correct response to the global economic crisis. Well, great leaders are never so blind or obstinate not to change course when the situation calls for it.

The leader of the Lower House saw that amending the economic provisions of the constitution could bring an “influx of foreign investment” at a time when the country desperately needs to create more jobs. Unfortunately, foreign businessmen didn’t see what the great leader saw.

This paper reported that “officials of the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC), in a roundtable discussion with the Business Mirror, warned that an ill-timed tinkering of the Charter might lead to more problems rather than present solutions.”

“There are a lot of things the Philippine government can do now administratively and legislatively that would send a signal that indeed they really want to open up the economy, would welcome foreign investment and create the jobs that are needed. It can be done irrespective of whether you open the Constitution or not,” said the executive director of the American chamber.

What will Nograles do now, force the foreign chambers to put their money where his mouth is? Make them walk his talk?

Some foreign investors will welcome the amendment proposed by Nograles.  These are the locals who have been salting their ill-gotten wealth abroad and who, afraid of being caught in the global anti-money laundering net, are now looking for a safe haven for their loot.

If Nograles’ amendment is carried, the usual suspects will be able to set up dummy foreign corporations to “re-invest” their booty right here at home. Our favorite crooks, dressed up as foreigners and acting through nominees, will be able to “eat their cake and bake it too,” as one former Miss International used to say.
I hope those “foreign” locals are not the people whose lives Nograles intends to improve because I don’t want to see Congressman Cerilles joining the blame game.