House starts plenary debates on economic Cha-cha

February 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Proponents and opponents of the House of Representatives’ move to amend restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution will start their debates when Congress resumes sessions today.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, confirmed that their Committee Report 735 adopting Resolution of Both Houses 2 (RBH 2) by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will be taken up by the House plenary this afternoon.

“It is already scheduled for sponsorship and debates. The list on the debates is quite long already,” said the Ako Bicol congressman, whose committee had voted 64-3-3 in adopting RBH 2.

He said the House plans to approve the resolution on third and final reading before Congress’ Holy Week break on March 27.

Among those who will be delivering their sponsorship speeches, aside from Garbin, are Reps. Joey Salceda of Albay and Stella Luz Quimbo of Marikina – two resident-economists in the chamber.

Salceda is chairman of the House ways and means committee, while Quimbo sits as Deputy Minority Leader.

But early on, the six-man Makabayan bloc and the group of former speaker, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, have expressed opposition to the move, insisting that now is not the time to tinker with the Charter, especially with the pandemic.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, who is allied with Cayetano, suggested that the House leadership “call off” the move and “rather focus their time and attention on helping Malacañang ensure the speedy and successful rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination program.”

“The time and energy to be wasted should be spent instead by House members on helping the government carry out a nationwide public information drive to persuade adults to take part in the upcoming mass vaccination program,” he said.

Villafuerte said the House should just “deep-freeze this highly divisive measure that would only sidetrack the national focus from the administration’s goal to immunize 70 million Filipinos – or 100 percent of the country’s adult population – against COVID-19.”

Rep. Mike Defensor of Anakalusugan party-list shared the same sentiment, adding the House leadership should first consult with their counterparts in the Senate if they will also be willing to participate.

“I believe that in rushing Cha-cha, the House is putting the cart before the horse. The House should first resolve with the Senate at least two contentious issues – whether the two chambers need to approve a joint resolution formally convening themselves into a constituent assembly before, or both of them can tackle any amendment proposal,” he said.

“The other issue is whether the two chambers vote separately. It is my impression that the Senate is of the view that a joint resolution is needed, while the House thinks otherwise,” Defensor opined.

“It takes two to Cha-cha. Unless the House convinces the Senate to get on board its Cha-cha express, the House would just be wasting precious time, effort and taxpayers’ money,” he said.

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