MANILA -- Members of Gabriela and Anakpawis party-list group picketed anew the South Gate of the lower House on day 3 of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments hearing on the Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 authored by Speaker Sonny Belmonte.
Despite President Aquino's pronouncements, the chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments expressed belief that the chief executive has an open mind on charter change.
Rep. Mylene Garcia Albano said, "The President is willing to listen to discussions taking place. I don't think his mind is entirely closed. He might want to know progress and reasons of the members of Congress."
The Makabayan bloc had charged last week that the President is secretly backing charter change.
Malacañang, however, stated that the President has repeatedly said he is against charter change.
Belmonte's measure seeks to amend the 1987 Constitution by empowering Congress to pass laws to regulate current limits to foreign ownership of land, businesses and investments in the country.
Meanwhile, the Makabayan Bloc, this time represented by Gabriela Rep. Emmy de Jesus, noted that the day 3 of the hearing happened on the anniversary of the EDSA Revolution but the intent of the measure is to allegedly benefit foreigners.
De Jesus also questioned the process being proposed by the measure to amend the Constitution -- that is by approval of the resolution by a 3/4 vote of all the members of both chambers voting separately, no need for a constituent assembly or constitutional convention.
Gabriela previously raised the alarm over the possibility that political amendments may be inserted, noting that other charter change measures are pending.
Garcia Albano, speaking to media before the hearing, confirmed that none of the other charter change measures have withdrawn their proposals. Some of the proposals contain political amendments like calls for a constitutional convention, changes in the form of government and a shift to a federal form of government.
Albano also maintained that their discussions are limited by the provisions of Belmonte's resolution. Belmonte himself said that if any political provisions are inserted, he will back out.
Committee Vice Chairperson Elpidio Barzaga, meanwhile, expects the majority of congressmen to back the measure authored by the speaker of the House.
Barzaga clarified that for the measure to hurdle committee level, it only needs a simple majority of the quorum. It is in plenary where a 3/4 vote of all members is required.
Barzaga also refuted questions on the process, saying there is jurisprudence that shows that there is nothing wrong with the procedure they are contemplating.
"Actually we have an abundance of jurisprudence, Gonzales vs Comelec, in that case, the SC expressly stated that when members of Congress deliberate on any proposal on changing the Constitution, they're not doing so as members of Congress, they're doing it as a component part of a constituent assembly," he said.
Barzaga, who belongs to the majority, expects his National Unity Party, to make a party stand on the matter.
Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, who has made a personal stand against charter change, said his party, the Nationalist People's Coalition, has not made a stand on charter change.
Gatchalian, who comes from the family of local plastics king William Gatchalian, has opposed charter change, saying listing limits to foreign ownership will just lead to more poverty.
"There's a lot of research that foreign ownership can displace rural folks and farmers. We have to be careful in terms of opening up ownership of land. We have to set up safety nets to protect farmers," he said.
Barzaga, for his part, maintained that the amendments, if approved, are not self-implementing since Congress still has to pass enabling laws.
"What we want is a certain leeway," he said.