D E C I S I O N
I. THE FACTS
Petitioners Senators Tañada, et al. questioned the constitutionality of the concurrence by the Philippine Senate of the President’s ratification of the international Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO). They argued that the WTO Agreement violates the mandate of the 1987 Constitution to “develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos . . . (to) give preference to qualified Filipinos (and to) promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods.” Further, they contended that the “national treatment” and “parity provisions” of the WTO Agreement “place nationals and products of member countries on the same footing as Filipinos and local products,” in contravention of the “Filipino First” policy of our Constitution, and render meaningless the phrase “effectively controlled by Filipinos.”
II. THE ISSUE
Does the 1987 Constitution prohibit our country from participating in worldwide trade liberalization and economic globalization and from integrating into a global economy that is liberalized, deregulated and privatized?
III. THE RULING
[The Court DISMISSED the petition. It sustained the concurrence of the Philippine Senate of the President’s ratification of the Agreement establishing the WTO.]
NO, the 1987 Constitution DOES NOT prohibit our country from participating in worldwide trade liberalization and economic globalization and from integrating into a global economy that is liberalized, deregulated and privatized.
There are enough balancing provisions in the Constitution to allow the Senate to ratify the Philippine concurrence in the WTO Agreement.
[W]hile the Constitution indeed mandates a bias in favor of Filipino goods, services, labor and enterprises, at the same time, it recognizes the need for business exchange with the rest of the world on the bases of equality and reciprocity and limits protection of Filipino enterprises only against foreign competition and trade practices that are unfair. In other words, the Constitution did not intend to pursue an isolationist policy. It did not shut out foreign investments, goods and services in the development of the Philippine economy. While the Constitution does not encourage the unlimited entry of foreign goods, services and investments into the country, it does not prohibit them either. In fact, it allows an exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity, frowning only on foreign competition that is unfair.
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[T]he constitutional policy of a “self-reliant and independent national economy” does not necessarily rule out the entry of foreign investments, goods and services. It contemplates neither “economic seclusion” nor “mendicancy in the international community.” As explained by Constitutional Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, sponsor of this constitutional policy:
Economic self-reliance is a primary objective of a developing country that is keenly aware of overdependence on external assistance for even its most basic needs. It does not mean autarky or economic seclusion; rather, it means avoiding mendicancy in the international community. Independence refers to the freedom from undue foreign control of the national economy, especially in such strategic industries as in the development of natural resources and public utilities.
The WTO reliance on “most favored nation,” “national treatment,” and “trade without discrimination” cannot be struck down as unconstitutional as in fact they are rules of equality and reciprocity that apply to all WTO members. Aside from envisioning a trade policy based on “equality and reciprocity,” the fundamental law encourages industries that are “competitive in both domestic and foreign markets,” thereby demonstrating a clear policy against a sheltered domestic trade environment, but one in favor of the gradual development of robust industries that can compete with the best in the foreign markets. Indeed, Filipino managers and Filipino enterprises have shown capability and tenacity to compete internationally. And given a free trade environment, Filipino entrepreneurs and managers in Hongkong have demonstrated the Filipino capacity to grow and to prosper against the best offered under a policy of laissez faire.
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It is true, as alleged by petitioners, that broad constitutional principles require the State to develop an independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos; and to protect and/or prefer Filipino labor, products, domestic materials and locally produced goods. But it is equally true that such principles — while serving as judicial and legislative guides — are not in themselves sources of causes of action. Moreover, there are other equally fundamental constitutional principles relied upon by the Senate which mandate the pursuit of a “trade policy that serves the general welfare and utilizes all forms and arrangements of exchange on the basis of equality and reciprocity” and the promotion of industries “which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets,” thereby justifying its acceptance of said treaty. So too, the alleged impairment of sovereignty in the exercise of legislative and judicial powers is balanced by the adoption of the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and the adherence of the Constitution to the policy of cooperation and amity with all nations.
That the Senate, after deliberation and voting, voluntarily and overwhelmingly gave its consent to the WTO Agreement thereby making it “a part of the law of the land” is a legitimate exercise of its sovereign duty and power. We find no “patent and gross” arbitrariness or despotism “by reason of passion or personal hostility” in such exercise. It is not impossible to surmise that this Court, or at least some of its members, may even agree with petitioners that it is more advantageous to the national interest to strike down Senate Resolution No. 97. But that is not a legal reason to attribute grave abuse of discretion to the Senate and to nullify its decision. To do so would constitute grave abuse in the exercise of our own judicial power and duty. Ineludibly, what the Senate did was a valid exercise of its authority. As to whether such exercise was wise, beneficial or viable is outside the realm of judicial inquiry and review. That is a matter between the elected policy makers and the people. As to whether the nation should join the worldwide march toward trade liberalization and economic globalization is a matter that our people should determine in electing their policy makers. After all, the WTO Agreement allows withdrawal of membership, should this be the political desire of a member.