Velasco shores up support for charter change ahead of committee deliberations

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2021 07:49 PM

MANILA - House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco met with leaders of political parties in the majority coalition at the House of Representatives Tuesday to make sure only amendments to the limits to foreign investments in the country are tackled and approved when the chamber begins deliberations on the charter change proposal. 

This, as the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments is set to tackle Wednesday morning Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 on the proposed constitutional amendment.

“There is a strong and united consensus among political leaders in the House to back Speaker Velasco’s initiative towards liberalizing the economic provisions in the Constitution,” House Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said in a statement released by the Speaker’s office after emerging from a hybrid meeting called by Velasco on the proposed charter amendments.

Aside from Herrera and Velasco, physically present at the meeting were Deputy Speakers Mikee Romero (1-PACMAN Party-list), Kristine Singson Meehan (Ilocos Sur, 2nd District) and Wes Gatchalian (Valenzuela City, 1st District); and Representatives Mark Enverga (Quezon, 1st District), Kit Belmonte (Quezon City, 6th District), Francisco Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd District), and Alfredo Garbin Jr. (Ako Bicol Party-list).

Those present via teleconferencing were Deputy Speakers Doy Leachon (Oriental Mindoro, 1st District), Roberto Puno (Antipolo City, 1st District), Munir Arbison (Sulu, 2nd District) and Eric Martinez (Valenzuela City, 2nd District); Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (Leyte, 1st District); Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod Party-list); and Representatives. Mikey Arroyo (Pampanga, 2nd District), Isidro Ungab (Davao City, 3rd District), Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte, 2nd District), Michael John Duavit (Rizal, 1st District), Joet Garcia (Bataan, 2nd District), Rommel Angara (Aurora), Franz Alvarez (Palawan, 1st District), Eileen Ermita-Buhain (Batangas, 1st District), Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA Party-list) and Stella Quimbo (Marikina City, 2nd District).

The lawmakers come from major political parties and blocs in the House, namely the ruling PDP-Laban, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, National Unity Party, Lakas-NUCD, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Liberal Party, and the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc.

Garbin, who was at the meeting, earlier said in a statement that RBH No. 2, which Velasco himself authored, limits itself to appending the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Sections 2, 3, 7, 10 and 11 of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Section 4 of Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and Section 11 of Article XVI (General Provisions) to allow Congress to enact laws to free up the economy to foreign investors, or else maintain the status quo.

Garbin had said that in compliance with the Speaker’s instruction, his committee will not tackle nor entertain any political amendment proposal.

“We want to endorse the resolution and the change it proposes as soon as possible. That will be another move that will prove the doubters wrong,” he added.

Invited to Wednesday’s virtual hearing set at 10 a.m. are two former National Economic and Development Authority chiefs, Gerardo Sicat and Ernesto Pernia, Dr. Raul Fabella of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, Jose Enrique Africa of Ibon Foundation, and Calixto Chikiamco and Gary Olivar of the Foundation for Economic Reform.

But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman slammed the process being undertaken by the House, saying in a statement that RBH No. 2 “provides for a mongrelized process because it effectively authorizes the Congress to make amendments by legislation in violation of the limited amendatory procedure prescribed in Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution.”

"The omnibus and boundless phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” is an infirm or pseudo proposal because the real power to amend is fully vested in the Congress as a lawmaking body instead of being exercised by a Constituent Assembly, Constitutional Convention or People’s Initiative," Lagman said.

"Any proposed alienation of the nationality provisions in the Constitution on restricted foreign capital investment in sensitive industries as well as in land acquisition and ban on media ownership, among others, must be specific and complete for the consideration of a Constituent Assembly or Constitutional Convention, and the eventual ratification by the people who must be clearly informed of the parameters of the proposed amendments," he added.

Lagman also claimed that in addition to the flawed process, the lifting of the nationalistic provisions is not needed “because no less than the prospective foreign investors do not clamor for the removal of the so-called “restrictive” provisions which are salutary safeguards of Filipino posterity.”

Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said she supports the general approach of making these prohibitions subject to regular amendments by Congress through legislation, rather than limiting any revisions to constitutional amendments, which are tedious and politically charged. 

"I believe a more open legislative process helps “future-proof” these provisions by providing the flexibility to adjust to economic conditions that we cannot yet foresee, incorporating national security safeguards, and making economic provisions subject to regular debate and scrutiny," she said.

For his part, Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy V on Monday urged the public to follow the House hearings on charter change online.

“With the House hearings set to start this week, there are going to be a lot of discussions as to whether we should or should not amend the Constitution,” said Dy.

"Since ultimately our people will decide on the fate of these proposals, listening to the debates and discussions on online platforms like Facebook and YouTube will help them better assess the need for these amendments," he added.

For Dy, making the debates and discussions available online will be beneficial to the public so they will better understand the issues.

“These online platforms are very powerful because they allow the public to listen to the arguments of their representatives, unfiltered and in full––not just 30-second sound bites that don’t present the full picture of one’s position on a given issue,” said the legislator.

“The more voters know about the proposed amendments, the better-equipped they will be do decide whether these amendments should be adopted," he added.

The HOR livestreams plenary sessions and committee hearings of the House on its official YouTube and Facebook Accounts. 

Deputy Speaker Bienvenido Abante, meanwhile, told the public to keep an open mind regarding the proposals to amend the charter.

“The framers of the Constitution included provisions that allow for revisions to the Constitution because they recognized that at some point, amendments may have to be adopted to make the law of the land more responsive to the needs of our people,” said Abante.

“So I believe it behooves us to listen to the proposals and evaluate whether these proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the Charter are necessary at this point, and beneficial for our constituents,” he said.

“Let us all keep an open mind and listen to what our economic managers, the business sector, and the country’s economists have to say," Abante also said.

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