Law calling for plebiscite to ratify sought changes in Constitution must be passed: solon

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2021 10:56 PM

Law calling for plebiscite to ratify sought changes in Constitution must be passed: solon 1

MANILA - A lawmaker on Tuesday said Congress needs to pass a law calling for a plebiscite to ratify any proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution.

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chair Alfredo Garbin confirmed that even if Congress approves Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, a law calling for a plebiscite needs to be passed.

The said resolution seeks to amend Articles 12, 14 and 16 of the 1987 Constitution to relax limits on foreign investments in the country.

Before becoming effective, the Constitution requires voters' approval of any changes to the charter through a plebiscite after these are initially approved by Congress by a vote of 3/4 of its members. 

“Assuming that we pass this by a vote of 3/4 from the members of HOR, and without the Senate, before a plebiscite, we still need to enact a law authorizing such a plebiscite in order for the proposed amendments to be voted upon by Filipinos and approve the same," Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor said during plenary deliberations. 

"It is always my conviction that the 3/4 vote should be 3/4 of the Senate and 3/4 of the House of Representatives. Now, if we approve any proposal in amending the Constitution, it still needs an enabling law to call for a plebiscite for the ratification of the approved proposal of both Houses of Congress, I agree," Garbin replied.

Garbin said a counterpart of that enabling law in the Senate is needed as well.

"That is the nature of a bicameral conference," he said.

Critics of the House have accused the lower chamber of railroading the process by failing to convene physically with the Senate to tackle the proposed amendments.

Garbin, however, has maintained that the process they have pursued is legal as there is no requirement for the House and Senate to convene physically together to deliberate and later on vote. 

The House also argued that amendments can be pursued through the route of regular legislation — or separate deliberations and voting — as long as the requirement of a 3/4 vote is satisfied. 

In an interview earlier in the day, Garbin disclosed that a final decision by the chamber on House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s proposal will be made soon based on the meeting of House Leaders on Monday—the first day of plenary sessions after a 7-week recess. 

Velasco advocated for the proposed changes in the charter to open up the country’s economy to foreign direct investments and supposedly help alleviate poverty. 

The 18th Congress will wrap up its 2nd regular session, sine die on June 5, 2021.

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