House panel kicks off provincial consultations on charter change

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2023 05:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2023 09:00 AM

MANILA/TOKYO (UPDATE) — The House of Representatives' Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Friday launched its provincial public consultations on charter change in Cagayan de Oro City. 

While the House's push for charter change will focus on economic provisions, lawmakers are ready to listen to political amendments, said Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the panel. 

"We believe that we should have this particular amendments with special focus. This is just my and the leadership's feeling. That focus will be on economic provisions," Rodriguez said in his opening remarks at the University of Science and Technology of the Philippines. 

"We will also listen if you have, you have also political amendments. But the focus really now is to make sure that after the President invites the businessmen of the world, that our country is open for business by lifting the prohibitions and limitations of the 1987 Philippine Constitution," he added.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez said President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. told him and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri to consider revisiting the Constitution and certain laws for possible adjustments to make the country “more conducive” for business investments.

“The Philippines’ constitution unfortunately is known to be one of the most restrictive constitutions. There are many prohibitions and there are many limitations. So when we get back to Manila, we continue with our public hearings on the possibility of revisiting the, possibility of charter amendments,” Romualdez told reporters in Tokyo where Marcos is on an official visit through Sunday.

The House leader, who spoke on the sidelines of the business meetings of the president, is among members of the latter's delegation. During the talks, some businessmen had queries on tax burden, tariff issues, incentives and other certain exemptions that impact business operations, Romualdez said. 

“So, we are identifying the Constitution now as the last piece of the puzzle. We believe that once we open it, and once we revisit the economic provisions, to make it less restrictive but more open or at least competitive to other constitutions, then I think we will get the final success that we have been looking for - you know, the Philippines moves up from the third world country tier to the second world, to a developed country status,” said the Speaker who is a cousin of Marcos.

“And I say this because we have lot of competition in the region. The ASEAN is there, and a number of the economies. When you talk about Thailand, even Vietnam, of course Singapore and Malaysia are ahead of us. But even in the Indo-China region, there’s an integration of the countries,” Romualdez added.


Romualdez said Marcos was "thrilled" to see many have expressed their intent to invest in the Philippines.

“In fact, I think he is overwhelmed because there’s this, I don't know what’s the word - parang may tsunami ng interest, and not just interest but commitments, not just from existing Japanese investors and businesses but even new ones,” he said.

Malacanang earlier said that 35 letters of intent were signed between the Philippines and Japan on investment pledges and business deals.

A number of business meetings were arranged between companies from both countries in a business matching event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry.

"But that's only the tip of the iceberg... But there's an offshoot of this. Marami pa 'yan eh. Marami pa nangyayari off-camera, so to speak, or on the sidelines," Romualdez said.

"Ang daming dumating na businesssmen dito, at nakikita ito ng mga Hapon na very, very open ang Pilipinas," he added.

Secured deals will ultimately benefit the Filipino people, said Romualdez.

"These discussions really redound to the benefit of the Filipino people, through the improvement of the economy, through investments, expansions of business, explorations to new areas and fields, the clarifications of whatever issues the businessmen have brought forth," he said.


Almost every administration since the 1987 Constitution came into effect has seen several attempts to revise the charter, all of which failed due to general disagreements on the mode of amendments, the necessity of the amendments, and the general distrust that it could be used to perpetuate incumbent officials in power.

Rodriguez, the House panel chair, said lawmakers plan to go to Iloilo next week, followed by other consultations in San Fernando, Pampanga and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The panel earlier held three public hearings and two public consultations at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.

"We're going to make sure that all the regions of the country will be visited by our members of Congress and the committee on constitutional amendments," he said.

Attended by various members of the panel, the public consultation became an opportunity for lawmakers advocating charter change to campaign for revisions to the constitution and to answer questions from a generally friendly crowd. Cagayan de Oro is Rodriguez's hometown.

Misamis Occidental 2nd District Rep. Sancho Fernando Oaminal noted that the crowd in the consultation appeared supportive of charter change.

"I am very grateful today that the vast majority, if not everyone here present, is not in favor of the sentiments of our dear colleague, Rep. France Castro, in a way that we are all supportive of the call for a change or amendments in our constitution," Oaminal said.

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the Makabayan bloc merely wanted to bring in the flip side into the conversation.

"I am very happy and very grateful to our chair. Actually po, I asserted myself to be invited or to be here in the public consultation. Yung public consultation po, hindi naman ito paramihan ng yes or no," Castro said.

"The Speaker of the House, sabi niya nga, the Minority is our priority. Kahit naman po generally majority po ng Kongreso... Pero alam niyo, ang minority ay pinakikinggan 'yan ng Kongreso. So we are a collegial body in the Congress. Kaya kung anuman yung paninindigan ng bawat isa sa amin ay nirerespeto po bawat isa," she added.

(Public consultations are not about which side has more yes or no. As the Speaker of the House said, the minority is our priority even though Congress generally has a majority. Congress listens to the minority, so we are a collegial body in the Congress and we respect everyone's beliefs.)

"We are just presenting here the two sides of the coin, and it's up for the Filipino people to decide later on these constitutional reforms that we are tackling here."

"Kami po sa Makabayan bloc, we are not against naman constitutional reforms but timing lang po yung gusto natin. Pangalawa, ma-prioritize muna yung pangangailangan natin ngayon," Castro said.

(We in the Makabayan bloc are not against constitutional reforms, but we just want the best timing. Second, we should prioritize the things we really need right now.)

- with a report from Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News