House to revive push to amend 1987 Charter — Speaker

House to revive push to amend 1987 Charter — Speaker

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

THE HOUSE of Representatives is again seeking to amend to the 1987 Philippine Constitution to ease economic restrictions, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez said on Monday.

It wants people to decide whether Congress should vote on constitutional changes jointly or separately, he told an economic briefing in Iloilo City in central Philippines.

“We are thinking right now of addressing the procedural gap or question as to how we amend the Constitution,” Mr. Romualdez said.

The House in March passed a bill seeking to amend the 187 Constitution through a constitutional convention. A similar measure in the Senate only reached the committee level.

“We will highly recommend that we embark on a people-centered initiative to cure this impasse, so to speak, on how we vote,” he said.

“We want to lift the restrictive provisions in our Constitution vis-à-vis the economy,” the Speaker said. “We feel that the Constitution should be prospective and not reactionary. Right now, it is very prohibitive, the most prohibitive in the region,” he added.

Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual supported lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of local businesses.

“Such a move will make our country more competitive in attracting foreign investments, which are needed to create high-quality jobs for our people,” he said in a Viber group message.

Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and constitutionalist, said lawmakers should justify to the public the need to amend the Constitution after attempts failed due to public backlash.

“The Speaker should first prove that there is a constituency behind his proposal to put forward economic amendments,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “He has to show that there is clear public support for amending the 1987 Constitution. Without any such proof, this plan will not succeed.”

Mr. Yusingco said moves to change the Charter should not be rushed to ensure the public understands the process and its possible effects.

“The only way to overcome public distrust is to show that amending the Constitution is necessary and beneficial for the nation,” he said. “Whatever these proposed amendments are, the proponents must make sure that the public understands what they are and the repercussions they may have.”

Emy Ruth Gianan, who teaches economics at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, said criticisms against Charter Change (“Cha-cha”) focused mainly on concerns over term limits.

“While people understand the value of opening up our economy further to foreign investors, the possibility of tampering constitutional provisions on term limits weighs heavily,” she said in a Messenger chat.

She said constitutional limits could be eased through the Public Service Act as well as the recent Supreme Court decision increasing local government share in national taxes.

“The economic challenges in the country are rooted in politics — who owns what and where,” she said. “It would be more beneficial to expend our energies on supporting legislation that limit political dynasties and creating avenues for partnerships between foreign and local markets.”

Other key legislation that the House would push are infrastructure, education and workforce development, healthcare and social services, agricultural development and food security, Mr. Romualdez said.