Lawmakers pledge to limit Cha-cha

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 14 2014 02:25 AM | Updated as of Mar 14 2014 10:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and several other lawmakers have signed a pledge to limit Charter change initiatives to economic provisions.

Belmonte signed the document Wednesday night along with members of the so-called House independent bloc.

“The Speaker’s signing of the pledge will greatly help assure the nation of any fears in this noble effort of Charter reforms. Mind you, this is a radical pledge,” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, the principal author of the document, said in a telephone interview.

“I’m with you 100 percent,” the lawmaker quoted Belmonte as saying in signing the pledge in the latter’s office.

He said all members of the independent bloc led by Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez have signed the document.

Atienza said he aims to gather more signatures before the start of the plenary discussions on the resolution in May.

Last March 3, the House committee on constitutional amendments approved Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, seeking to ease restrictions on foreign participation in certain industries to attract more investments and create jobs.

The pledge read: “We, the members of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, make this pledge to the people of the Philippines to only tackle economic provisions of the Constitution as we move towards Charter change. We will not touch political provisions, especially the extension of terms of incumbent officials and the lifting of term limits. We submit ourselves for expulsion from Congress should this pledge be violated.”

Atienza said joblessness and hollow growth are two major economic problems facing the country.

“Opening our economy will generate new industries and opportunities that will address these alarming developments,” Atienza said.

The resolution seeks to insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports), and XVI (general provisions) to allow Congress in the future to enact laws that will ease restrictions on foreign ownership in certain industries to attract investments and generate jobs.

“You will notice this is the simplest possible Charter change that we can think of, addressing a very important issue, the economic provisions, while at the same time not opening doors but providing keys to meet contingencies as they may occur,” Belmonte told reporters on Wednesday.

Once approved in the House, the resolution would be transmitted to the Senate for deliberations. If passed, the document will be subjected to a nationwide plebiscite.

At the Senate, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. said he is open to Charter change but voiced concerns that some lawmakers might take it as an opportunity to revise term limits and definitions of power of the three branches of government.

“We are open to amendments of some provisions in the Constitution but not the political provisions, wherein the current allies of the administration are likely to benefit,” Revilla said in a statement.

Revilla issued the statement a day after the Palace said President Aquino is open to discussing his views on Charter change with Belmonte.

“I got information that the administration has plans to strengthen the executive, particularly on the financial front,” he said.

“My sources said they wanted to tinker with the term limits so that they can probably prevail beyond 2016. They see the weakness of their candidate, which is the reason why they are finding a way (to stay in power)” Revilla said.

He said he finds Malacañang’s declaration that it has nothing to do with Cha-cha moves incredible. With Mayen Jaymalin, Christina Mendez