MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco yesterday allayed the fears of senators and the public that tweaking certain provisions in the 1987 Constitution might include political revisions.
“We are not proposing to open the basic law of the land to revisions. We want to limit ourselves to provisions relating to the economy and national patrimony. We will not touch the political sections of the Charter,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said.
As the House committee on constitutional amendments chairman, he reiterated that the Speaker “has given the commitment that the House would confine itself to economic Charter change (Cha-cha).”
“The Speaker’s assurance will serve as our word of honor. In compliance with the Speaker’s instruction, my committee will not entertain any political amendment proposal,” he said.
Garbin called on the Senate to keep an open mind, even as he refuted claims the Charter change might result in “wholesale amendments that could lead to extending the term of office of incumbent elective officials and lifting of term limits.”
“It’s long overdue. The support and the clamor is there. The introduction of the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law’ in those restrictive provisions will give Congress the flexibility and leeway to alter the restrictions when the economic situation requires it,” he said.
He added that the slight change in the Charter’s language “will improve the investment climate and generate much needed investments and jobs to counteract the economic contraction caused by the pandemic.”
For Deputy Minority Leader Stella Quimbo, lifting the prohibitive economic provisions in the 33-year-old Constitution is not a problem at all because this will help the country alleviate the impact of recession brought about by the global pandemic.
“Unless restrictive economic provisions are lifted, the country will miss out on these foreign capital flows. Amending the highly restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution will be instrumental for our recovery and development,” she argued, noting that the health crisis has “caused substantial economic damage, requiring huge infusions in foreign capital in order to return to the country’s pre-pandemic growth trajectory.”
Quimbo added that she “would like to see amendments that will allow more competition in sectors such as telecommunications, transport and media and, for the education sector, which could greatly benefit from the transfer of new technologies.”
“These sectors are critical to economic recovery post-pandemic. From my analysis and many other economists and experts, these are industries that would most benefit from a less-stifling regulatory framework,” the neophyte Marikina congresswoman stressed.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House ways and means committee, also assured the public that they “will not touch the political provisions in its revived efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution.”
“The position of the House is really just to amend to include the line ‘unless otherwise provided by law.’ This is based on the need of the country. This at least gives the Congress, as a chief policymaking body under the Constitution, the flexibility of making changes. As for the particular laws that will govern sections on foreign ownership, those can be taken up in the next Congress. It’s all up to them,” the former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority explained.
For Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Padilla, those pushing to amend the Constitution simply want to avoid an election and avoid accountability.
“They are using all kinds of reasons to push for Charter change, and now the coronavirus. Before it was for economic reasons and then to reform party list laws. This is very suspect… At this time to push for Cha-cha is to extend terms or avoid election or avoid accountability of their misgovernance,” he said.
Also expressing their opposition are former Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, who said this would just “open a Pandora’s box for more radical changes to favor (President) Duterte and his cohorts,” and former Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani.
The group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also expressed its opposition, saying it will only “intensify the foreign plunder of Philippine seas.”
“The proposed Cha-cha would further exploit the country’s land and sea resources because it will remove the protections on our sovereignty and patrimony granted by the existing constitution,” said Fernando Hicap, its chairperson. – Evelyn Macairan, Elizabeth Marcelo