House begins plenary hearings on Cha-cha

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2014 09:09 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2014 05:09 AM

MANILA - The House of Representatives began plenary deliberations on a resolution that seeks to amend the Constitution by empowering Congress to pass legislation that will amend the economic provisions there.

The measure, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., was sponsored on the floor by Constitutional Amendments committee chair Mylene Garcia Albano last May. Interpellations only began today.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello was the first to interpellate: “I respect the intent of the authors, I respect the intent of Speaker Belmonte. I think the intent may not necessarily lead to the adoption of best methods for the economy.”

Bello added China’s constitution, which also has protectionist provisions, has not hindered the growth of the nation’s economy.

“Contrary to the initial claim of the proponents, a constitutional ban on ownership of foreigners but also individuals and Chinese nationals… the state is the owner and the state may give leases and other types of arrangements to various ownership,” he said.

Bello cited Vietnam as another dynamic economy. “The state administers the land for the people.”

Garcia said, “what we’re asking for is to give Congress the leeway. We’re not, at this point, saying that we are changing… that is not the objective of the bill. What we’re trying to do is provide flexibility to Congress in the crafting of economic policies.”

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said this is the first time the House will tackle on the floor actual amendments to the Constitution.

Previous Cha-cha attempts in Congress were either bills calling for a constitutional convention or a constituent assembly (con-ass).

In 2009, then Speaker Prospero Nograles led the approval of HR 1109 to convene a con-ass, but this never happened because the Senate did not agree to it.

Outside Congress, previous attempts at Cha-cha include people's initiatives, such as the PIRMA during the Ramos administration and the Sigaw ng Bayan during the Arroyo administration.

Gonzales added this measure may be passed quickly to avoid insertions on political amendments.

Just recently, President Aquino expressed openness to charter change to clip the powers of the Supreme Court and open the possibility of a term extension, drawing the ire of critics.