During the recent visit of the Global Forum Mission to Manila from 28 June to 6 July 2006, the main point that they made was on the need to project the need to protect the “charter rights of Global Filipinos”. The news reports on this visit was fair but low key. After all, it stressed that Filipinos abroad were merely wanting to participate in the debate on Charter Change, since the process so far excluded us from making suggestions or even eventually from voting on them. This is a very good starting point, since participation in the process of discussing constitutional changes is a prerequisite to even thinking about what changes we would want.
The next point that was made during the Mission was on the need to have direct representation of Filipinos abroad in a future parliament. This would involve electing Overseas Filipino (OF) representatives who reside abroad to the Phil. parliament. [I think that as of the present rules, one must be a resident of the Philippines in order to be qualified to run for public office.]
I would suggest that the issue of “charter rights of Global Filipinos” could be taken one step further. This would involve inserting a series of constitutional provisions, even perhaps a whole section in the constitution, in order to secure both our “charter rights” as well as help ensure our maximum participation in Philippine politicial, social and economic life.
Such a section could include provisions such as:
– the right to vote, and to run for elective office, for all Filipinos abroad;
– the option for dual citizenship;
– recognition of Filipino-owned cooperatives and businesses formed abroad (could be limited to OECD countries) as Filipino cooperatives and businesses;
– the treatment of investments of natural-born Filipinos (including those already having foreign passports) as “Filipino” – thereby opening sectors of the economy reserved for Filipinos also to Overseas Filipinos;
– the government’s commitment to strengthen social, cultural and political ties with the Overseas Filipino communities;
– democratic consultations with Overseas Filipino communities regarding the work of Philippine consulates.
Of course, the contents of such an “Overseas Filipino Section” for the Philippine constitution should be the subject of a lot of discussions both among Overseas Filipinos and also with Philippine partners.
The point that is important to note is that with the big and growing role of Overseas Filipinos in Philippine society, it is important to provide both adequate protection to OFs as well as facilitate the maximum contribution of OFs to Philippine development.