Business group, ex-official prefer con-ass
A business group and a former finance secretary told a House committee on Tuesday that they preferred a constituent assembly (con-ass) as a more practical mode of amending the 1987 Constitution.
During the hearing of the House constitutional reform committee on Tuesday, former finance secretary Margarito Teves said con-ass was a more practical mode due to time constraints.
In a con-ass, Congress convenes to propose amendments to the charter. Another mode: through constitutional convention, or con-con, would need an election of delegates that would propose changes to the Charter.
Teves, a delegate on the constitutional convention that crafted the post-Marcos regime 1987 Constitution, said Congress could be trusted to pitch in amendments to the fundamental law of the land.
“Although the ideal is a constitutional convention, I think we have a president who’s very vigilant and concerned, so I’m sure Congress as con-ass would be able to handle this quite carefully, and given a limited time constraint,” Teves said.
Lawyer Perry Pe, president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), said Congress could be trusted to amend the charter because of its mandate from the electorate.
Both Teves and Pe agreed that President Rodrigo Duterte had the mandate to push for constitutional reform to fulfill his campaign promise that won him the elections.
“We prefer con-ass simply because of the cost and efficiency. We trust the current Congress. They were voted overwhelmingly. We trust the executive, he was voted overwhelmingly and campaigned (for this) and won by a large margin,” Pe said, representing the business group comprising the top 500 business companies in the country.
“We businessmen would like to be more practical. We got a very good Congress, we can trust Congress,” Pe added.
Pe also said MAP supports opening the country’s economy to foreign investments by lifting the foreign ownership restrictions in the 1987 Constitution.
He said foreign ownership restrictions should be lifted on such investments as media, education, advertising, businesses, among others.
Pe said he believed Filipino businesses could compete with foreign firms, and that opening the domestic economy to foreign investments would help them open up to the international market.
“If we allow them 100 percent ownership, I think Filipino companies can compete. Filipino business groups are prepared to do the competition. We’re prepared to meet them head on,” Pe said.
He added that MAP supported Duterte’s federal agenda to help the domestic markets in the countryside develop their products.
“The shift to federalism will propel our countryside. If you open this market, our small businessmen in the countryside will have a business agenda and a platform to work with,” Pe said.
For his part, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) managing director Restituto Cruz said the central bank had no position yet on the mode of amending the charter.
He said the BSP was appealing to Congress to maintain the constitutional independence of the central bank.
Cruz said it would not be ideal if the BSP dabbled on political affairs, and if it interfered with politics. He did not elaborate.
“We are not a political institution. We are more on the mandate to ensure financial stability,” Cruz said.
“When there’s political intervention on the central monetary authority, it’s not that good,” he added.
Duterte recently criticized the BSP and the Anti-Money Laundering Council for its failure to cooperate with the government in cracking down on alleged laundered drug money activities.
He claimed one influential family, which he did not name, laundered up to P5.1 billion in drug money.
The committee held its first public hearing on charter change after it approved the concurrent resolution calling on Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution.
The House is tackling Charter change following a call of President Rodrigo Duterte for Congress to convene in an assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution, particularly changing the form of government from unitary to federal parliamentary.
Under Article 17 of the Constitution, there are three modes of amending the charter.
Under Section 1, one mode of Charter change is through a Con-ass where Congress upon a vote of three votes of its members may propose amendments.
Section 1 also provides for a con-con where delegates will be elected by the public to propose amendments.
Lastly, under the People’s Initiatives, as stated under Section 2, proposal for constitutional amendments may be instituted by the people “through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the registered votes therein.”
Duterte is set to issue an executive order creating a constitutional commission to aid Congress in crafting a revised Charter.
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