The 2012 Gamboa-Teves doctrine

The Constitution expressly declares as State policy the development of an economy “effectively controlled” by Filipinos. Consistent with such State policy, the Constitution explicitly reserves the ownership and operation of public utilities to Philippine nationals, who are defined in the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 as Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60 percent of whose capital with voting rights belongs to Filipinos. The FIA’s implementing rules explain that “[f]or stocks to be deemed owned and held by Philippine citizens or Philippine nationals, mere legal title is not enough to meet the required Filipino equity. Full beneficial ownership of the stocks, coupled with appropriate voting rights is essential.” In effect, the FIA clarifies, reiterates and confirms the interpretation that the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution refers to shares with voting rights, as well as with full beneficial ownership. This is precisely because the right to vote in the election of directors, coupled with full beneficial ownership of stocks, translates to effective control of a corporation.

Any other construction of the term “capital” in Section 11, Article XII of the Constitution contravenes the letter and intent of the Constitution. Any other meaning of the term “capital” openly invites alien domination of economic activities reserved exclusively to Philippine nationals. Therefore, respondents’ interpretation will ultimately result in handing over effective control of our national economy to foreigners in patent violation of the Constitution, making Filipinos second-class citizens in their own country.

Filipinos have only to remind themselves of how this country was exploited under the Parity Amendment, which gave Americans the same rights as Filipinos in the exploitation of natural resources, and in the ownership and control of public utilities, in the Philippines. To do this the 1935 Constitution, which contained the same 60 percent Filipino ownership and control requirement as the present 1987 Constitution, had to be amended to give Americans parity rights with Filipinos. There was bitter opposition to the Parity Amendment and many Filipinos eagerly awaited its expiration. In late 1968, PLDT was one of the American-controlled public utilities that became Filipino-controlled when the controlling American stockholders divested in anticipation of the expiration of the Parity Amendment on 3 July 1974. No economic suicide happened when control of public utilities and mining corporations passed to Filipinos’ hands upon expiration of the Parity Amendment.

Movants’ interpretation of the term “capital” would bring us back to the same evils spawned by the Parity Amendment, effectively giving foreigners parity rights with Filipinos, but this time even without any amendment to the present Constitution. Worse, movants’ interpretation opens up our national economy to effective control not only by Americans but also by all foreigners, be they Indonesians, Malaysians or Chinese, even in the absence of reciprocal treaty arrangements. At least the Parity Amendment, as implemented by the Laurel-Langley Agreement, gave the capital-starved Filipinos theoretical parity – the same rights as Americans to exploit natural resources, and to own and control public utilities, in the United States of America. Here, movants’ interpretation would effectively mean a unilateral opening up of our national economy to all foreigners, without any reciprocal arrangements. That would mean that Indonesians, Malaysians and Chinese nationals could effectively control our mining companies and public utilities while Filipinos, even if they have the capital, could not control similar corporations in these countries.

The 1935, 1973 and 1987 Constitutions have the same 60-percent Filipino ownership and control requirement for public utilities like PLDT. Any deviation from this requirement necessitates an amendment to the Constitution as exemplified by the Parity Amendment. This Court has no power to amend the Constitution for its power and duty is only to faithfully apply and interpret the Constitution.

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