Real basic change

Whichever way the 1987 Constitution is revised, as long as it removes all the outdated and ill-conceived provisions that have kept this country from growing and improving the lives of a lot more than it has, is fine with me. And if President Rodrigo Duterte spends all of his vast political capital on this one thing, of making sure that the Cory-era charter is revised, then I think that is an excellent expenditure.

Of course, politicians will whine and gnash their teeth over the manner of making the amendments, term limits, the form of government and any manner of change that will affect their personal political plans. This should not stop the administration from going ahead with constitutional reform.

Truth is, nearly all administrations that followed since the drafting of the 1987 charter were aware of the drastic changes that the document needed. But every single one of them failed because they did not have the political will to pull it off or were sidetracked after they were exposed to be merely in the game to stay in power beyond their terms.

(The only president after Cory Aquino who made it clear that he would have nothing to do with tinkering with even one comma or period in the basic law was her son, Noynoy Aquino. But then, Noynoy never did much of anything—and could certainly not be expected to even seriously consider changing a document that was created upon his mother’s behest, as if it was some family heirloom that should never be touched.)

Duterte, on the other hand, is just the sort of president bull-headed enough (and popular enough) to change the course of Philippine political and economic history by embarking on a course for revisiting and rewriting the constitution. As a long-time and very successful local executive, Duterte knows first-hand how the economic provisions of the 1987 charter, to name just one major aspect of the constitution that sorely needs updating and reworking, have protected the status quo that has been very profitable for the ruling elite, while keeping the vast majority of Filipinos in poverty and away from the fruits of progress.

I’m convinced that while Duterte appears to have succeeded in his efforts to do what needs to be done under the current constitutional regime, he must know that he has finally hit the glass ceiling that limits him from achieving more—and more permanent—change. He is the right president to do it and enough time to get the job done.

Let the politicians wail and worry. But let change, the kind that lives on beyond any president’s term, come to pass.

* * *

One of the most exciting developments in the local banking industry is the launching today of the Overseas Filipino Bank, a government-owned financial institution which will cater exclusively to the needs of upwards of 10 million Filipinos abroad. The new bank is expected to provide much better service and rates for Filipinos sending money back home, apart from giving them seamless financial advice and loan facilities when they return home to build homes or start businesses.

The establishment of OFB was one of the more important promises made by President Rodrigo Duterte upon his election nearly two years ago. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, an old hand in private sector banking, shepherded the creation of OFB from the moribund Philippine Postal Savings Bank and is now in the thick of negotiations with regulators in various countries where many overseas Filipinos live and work to establish branches there.

OFB was made a subsidiary of state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines after a presidential directive ordered the “sale” of PPSB shares to LBP at zero value. Duterte’s Executive Order 44 creating OFB also put forth the mission of the new OFW financial institution, which will be a “policy bank dedicated to provide financial products and services tailored to the requirement of overseas Filipinos” that will focus on delivering “quality and efficient foreign remittance services.”

One of the more innovative features of the bank is its ownership structure: fully 30 percent of it will be owned by the OFWs themselves.

This innovation will go a long way toward ensuring that the bank will comply with the highest industry standards, especially in the areas of transparency and accountability. The OFWs will not be mere clients of OFB, after all, but shareholders who will certainly keep the government representatives in the board and its professional managers on their toes, just like in the private sector.

Another interesting plan for OFB is Dominguez’s declaration that assets and earnings of the bank will be invested in local capital markets, which will ensure that any earnings will not be repatriated. I have no doubt that Dominguez and the rest of Duterte’s economic team, which is headed by the most qualified and experienced members of the Cabinet, will be able to help not only OFWs who have long suffered from high remittance costs and poor (if not totally absent) financial services but also the surging national economy—which still relies heavily on the billions sent home by Filipinos abroad—through OFB.

Topics: Real basic change

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