House OKs constitutional convention bill on final reading

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2023 07:31 PM

MANILA - Voting, 301-7-0 the House of Representatives has approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill 7352 or the proposed Constitutional Convention Act of 2023, which operationalizes Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 that calls for a convention to amend the 1987 Constitution.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez presided over the voting, upon the motion of Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe.

"With 301 members voting in the affirmative, 7 members in the negative, and zero abstentions, House Bill 7352 is hereby approved on third and final reading," Romualdez said after the vote.

In a separate statement, Romualdez said the House constitutional reform initiative aims to rewrite the “restrictive” economic provisions of the Constitution to enable the country to attract more foreign investments.

“We need more foreign capital to create additional job and income opportunities for our people. Increased investments will sustain our economic growth,” he said.

Representatives Gabriel Bordado, Arlene Brosas, France Castro, Edcel Lagman, Raoul Manuel, and Mujiv Hataman were among the 7 who voted against the bill.

"We cannot pin all our hopes on the prospect that foreign investment alone would be the key to escaping our economic rut. Sustainable growth would not be possible if we fail to address the pressing concerns already threatening to overwhelm us," Bordado said in voting against the bill.

"It takes two to cha-cha in this case, and with this accompanying bill finally hurdling the House together with the Resolution of Both Houses No. 6 with record speed and efficiency, grand sinister designs for the benefit of those in power must really be afoot. Napaka-inosente naman kung iisiping walang basbas ito ng Pangulo, at tanging kagustuhan lang ito ng Kongreso. In truth, overhauling the post-EDSA Constitution is part and parcel of the Marcosian grand design to overturn the course of history and roll back the supreme gains of the democratic EDSA uprising," Brosas said.

"Huwag nating linlangin ang taumbayan na 'concon para sa econ' lamang ito sa layuning amuin o pakalmahin ang oposisyon ng publiko sa ChaCha. Malinaw sa ating lahat—kabilang na ang mga sponsor ng panukalang ito at ng susunod na panukalang ConCon Act—ang batas, jurisprudence, at historical precedents na nagsasabing plenaryo o pangkalahatan ang kapangyarihan ng isang Kumbensyong Konstitusyonal, at di kayang limitahan ng Kongreso ang kapangyarihang ito. Malinaw sa atin na kung naisipan ng ConCon na sumayaw ng political chacha, kayang kaya niya itong gawin," Castro said.

Lagman believes the approval of the bill is premature and futile, as the Senate has not yet acted on RBH 6, and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said it does not have enough numbers in the Senate.

Lagman also is worried that the convention may tackle political amendments and open the restrictive economic provisions too much.

"On the other hand, when we open wide the economy up to 100% to foreign investment, the lords of foreign capital may not only supplement Filipino capital but supplant it altogether in gross violation of the constitutional mandate that the “State shall develop a self-reliant and independent economy effectively controlled by Filipinos,” Lagman said.

"Para sa inang bayan, bumoboto ang representasyon na ito ng NO sa House Bill 7352. Naniniwala kaming hindi dapat unahin ang Chacha sa aspeto man ng ekonomiya o pulitika – kahit sa pamamagitan pa ng Concon – nasa gitna tayo ng makasaysayang krisis na dinaranas ng mga pamilyang Pilipino sa kabuhayan, edukasyon, kalusugan, at batayang karapatan. Wala rin namang consensus sa hanay ng mga anak ng bayan para sa Chacha via Concon. Hindi ito ang hinahanap ng ating mga kababaihang breadwinner, mga young professional, mga working student, mga driver, mga factory worker, magsasaka at iba pang sektor sa bayan. Paulit-ulit natin itong pinarating sa iba’t ibang yugto ng deliberasyon ng panukalang ito," Manuel said in his explanation.

"Bakit tayo nagmamadali eh alam naman nating wala ring mangyayari hangga’t hindi aaksyunan ng Senado ang RBH 6?" Hataman said in a separate statement to media.

Under the final version of the bill, the convention shall be composed of elected and appointed delegates, one from each of the existing legislative districts, who shall be chosen in an election to be held on October 30, 2023. It shall also have sectoral representatives, which constitutes twenty per centum of the total number of delegates, to be jointly appointed by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

The delegates shall include at least three retired members of the judiciary, three representatives from the academe, three from the legal profession, two economists, two from the medical profession, two from science and technology profession, two representatives from the business sector, two from the labor sector, two representatives from the urban poor, two from the farmers and fisherfolk, two from indigenous cultural communities, two from the women sector, two from the youth sector, two from the veterans, two from the cooperatives sector, two from the senior citizens and persons with disabilities and representatives from such other sectors as the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives may determine as necessary.

All the additional sectoral delegates shall come from the basic sectors as defined and provided for under Republic Act No. 8425, otherwise known as the “Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act.”

Under the bill, elected and sectoral delegates shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and at least 25 years of age on the day of the election or appointment.

Further, an elected delegate, who shall be at least a college degree holder, must be a registered voter in the district in which the delegate shall be elected and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.

Those who are convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude shall be prohibited from being elected or appointed as delegate to the convention.

The election and appointment of delegates to the Convention shall be held on the last Monday of October 2023 simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. 

For appointive delegates, their appointment shall be made within fifteen days prior to the commencement of the Convention.

Officers and members of all political parties, or a coalition or alliance of such, are prohibited from nominating, fielding, endorsing, supporting directly or indirectly, whether material or otherwise, and campaign for or against any candidate. No candidate shall represent or allow himself or herself to be represented as being a candidate of any political party or any political coalition or group in which a political party is a member or convenor.

Any person holding a public office or position, whether elective or appointive, including members of the armed forces and officers and employees of corporations or enterprises owned and/or controlled by the government, shall be considered resigned upon the filing of the certificate of candidacy: Provided, That any government official or employee who resigns in order to run for delegate and who does not yet qualify for retirement under existing laws, may, if elected, add to the length of service in the government the period from the filing of the delegate’s certificate of candidacy until the final adjournment of the Convention.

Any person elected or appointed, and qualified as delegate to the Convention shall not be eligible to run for the office in the first local and national elections to be held after the ratification of the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution; or appointed to any government office or position while the Convention is in session and during the period of one year after its final adjournment.

The term of office of the delegates shall be seven months from December 1, 2023 up to June 30, 2024. The Office of the Delegate shall be without compensation and shall not be compatible with any other public office in the government or any government-owned or controlled corporations or any of their subsidiaries. However, every delegate shall be entitled to a per diem of P10,000 for every day of actual attendance in the Convention or in any of its committees and every delegate shall be entitled to necessary traveling and lodging expenses to and from the delegate’s place of residence when attending sessions of the Convention or any of its committees.

Brosas flagged the government for proposing to spend on the proposed convention while scrimping on a salary hike for government workers when she voted against the rightsizing bill.

The amendments to the Constitution proposed by the Convention shall be valid when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than ninety (90) days after the submission of the Convention Report.

The bill will be submitted to the Senate for action, along with RBH 6.