MANILA — A member of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments believes opening up mass media to foreigners will "strengthen" press freedom in the country.
"Foreign media, especially the western media kung saan nagpa-practice sila ng transparency, like CNN, like Bloomberg, it will strengthen our press freedom kasi hindi po sila basta-basta makokontrola ng mga pulitiko," said the panel's senior vice chairperson, Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor.
(Foreign media, especially the western media like CNN, like Bloomberg, it will strengthen our press freedom because they cannot be controlled that easily by politicians.)
"It will give a chance for the foreign media to exercise and show us their best practices when it comes to press freedom," he added.
Defensor also believes opening up mass media to foreigners will improve technology transfer and allow the rest of the world to better watch the Philippines.
"It can also improve the transfer of technology to our local media. Mas mababantayan po ang pagpapatakbo ng gobyerno ng buong mundo, hindi lang ng local media," said the lawmaker.
"Mas mababantayan po ng buong mundo, through foreign media and international media, how we exercise our rights and liberties, our human rights since it has become a concern during the previous administration," he continued.
(t can also improve the transfer of technology to our local media. The whole world, not just local media, can see how government runs the country. Through foreign and international media, the world can see how we exercise our rights and liberties, our human rights, since it has become a concern during the previous administration.)
The 1987 Constitution keeps foreigners out of mass media.
A House of Representatives panel in 2020 denied the bid of ABS-CBN Corporation, then the country's largest broadcaster, for a new franchise, following allegations that its former chairman-Emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III held both Philippine and American citizenships.
Defensor made the statement at the committee's public consultation on charter change in San Fernando, Pampanga.
The House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments took its out-of-town public consultations on charter change to San Fernando to listen to the stakeholders of Region 3.
Participants were also asked to fill up a questionnaire no whether they are in favor of amending the constitution, if they would want to do it by Constitutional Convention, Constituent Assembly or People's Initiative, and which of the 7 economic provisions they would like to change.
The 7 economic provisions in question include the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources, alienable lands, reserved investments, the grant of franchises, educational institutions, mass media and the advertising industry.
There are 12 measures pending in the House on charter change.
Defensor explained to the participants that ultimately, public trust issues doomed previous attempts at amending the charter through a constituent assembly.
"Bakit constitutional convention ang isa sa mga option na tinitignan ng committee ba? Sapagkat sa nakaraan pong 3 Kongreso, sinubukan po ng Kamara de Representante na mag-propose ng amendments sa economic provisions. In fact, ipinasa po namin yan on 3rd reading last term," Defensor said.
(Why is the committee looking at a constitutional convention? Because in the past 3 Congresses the House of Representatives tried proposing amendments to the economic provisions, In fact, we passed that on 3rd reading last term.)
"Ngunit hindi po maganda ang trust and confidence and acceptance ng ating mga kababayan, kung mga miyembro lang ng Kongreso ang mag-aamyenda ng konstitusyon.," he added.
(But it seems that our countrymen had poor trust and confidence in the system if only lawmakers will amend the constitution.)
In an interview, Defensor explained that earning public trust and securing the Senate's cooperation have been the stumbling blocks to charter change.
"One of the major challenges ever since is gaining public trust. There have been efforts to amend the constitution ever since the Cory administration, the Ramos administration. Last term, we also tried to amend, proposed amendments to the economic provisions but it has not gained public trust because the House of Representatives is doing the proposal," he said.
"Now we want to open up the option of a constitutional convention so the people will be aware that there are different modes of amending the constitution," he explained.
The official conceded, however, that an elected constitutional convention would be the more expensive option, since it involves the cost of the campaign and election of delegates, apart from the actual cost of operating the convention and the plebiscite.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday said his priorities do not include charter change as it is not necessary to actualize the investments pledges and agreements he has secured abroad.