MANILA - The House of Representatives moved a step closer to giving final approval to amendments to the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions.
The lower chamber on Wednesday approved on 2nd reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 2 that amends the 1987 Constitution to empower Congress to relax the constitutional limits on foreign investments in the country.
RBH 2 seeks to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to parts of Articles 12, 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
That’s sections 2, 3,7,10 and 11 or Article 12, Sec 4.2 of Article 14 and Section 11 of Article 16.
However, RBH 2 does not empower Congress to regulate the ban on foreign ownership of land in the country.
The measure was approved in an ayes and nayes vote during the plenary session.
House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chair, AKO Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin accepted only one amendment to RBH 2 out of the 7 proposals advanced by Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Lorenz Defensor.
Defensor had proposed to clarify the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to Article 12 Section 10 and have it read as: “The Congress, shall, upon recommendation of the economic and planning agency, and when the national interest dictates, reserve certain areas of investment to citizens of the Philippines or, unless otherwise provided by law, to corporations or associations at least certain per centum of whose capital is owned by such citizens.”
This provision as it exists in the Constitution refers to 60 percent ownership by Filipinos.
When told about the discrepancy, Defensor said he would ask to correct it.
Defensor explained that the previous wording of this provision in the committee version of RBH 2 could be interpreted to mean that: Congress may change the two conditions that may be fulfilled before certain areas of investments are reserved to qualified persons; and the retention of “or such higher percentage as Congress may prescribe” does not remove the limitation that Congress can only increase the percentage of Filipino ownership in corporations and ; Congress is allowed to reserve certain areas of investments to non-Filipino citizens. “
The Majority supported Garbin in accepting this amendment but it also sustained the principal sponsor in rejecting Defensor’s other proposed amendments to 6 other provisions in the Committee version of RBH 2.
The House is expected to give final approval in 3 session days.
RBH 2 must muster the support of three-fourths of the 300 man House—that’s 225 congressmen for it to meet the requirements of the 1987 Constitution for amendments to its provisions.
The House has drawn criticism for considering the amendment without physically convening a joint session with the Senate to form a constituent assembly.
Garbin has maintained there is no such requirement for the constitution which allows them to conduct deliberations and vote on the measure now and transmit it to the Senate if they approve it.