House to revive Cha-cha talks; targets ‘restrictive’ economic provisions
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is set to resume its Charter change (Cha-cha) debates this month, but leaders assure that discussions will only focus on the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, said hearings may be held even as early as January 13, days before the lower chamber reopens sessions on January 18.
Resumption of Cha-cha talks developed after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco met with Garbin and other House leaders, including Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, who previously chaired the constitutional amendments panel.
Garbin said the topic of constitutional amendment was among the priority legislative agenda of the House of Representatives.
“Ours is a 33-year old Constitution and if you look at the restrictive economic provisions, we’re lagging behind—foreign direct investments. So sabi ni Speaker, para makatulong tayo sa ekonomiya and also for the provisions of the Constitution to be responsive to the needs of time then we need to look into it,” Garbin told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.
“Kasi ang clamor since 13th Congress pa. Hindi talaga naipapasa but siguro ngayon may pagkakataon kasi as we look at it in the Senate there are also pending measures that call for amending the restrictive economic provisions,” he added.
Among the measures that will be tackled is the one filed by Velasco—the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which proposes amendments to certain economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Under Velasco’s proposal, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” shall be added in several sections of Article XII (National Patrimony and Economy), Article XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports), and Article XVI (General Provisions).
This includes provisions on limiting the ownership and management of mass media and educational institutions to citizens of the Philippines.
“No Constitution, no matter how good its framers, can respond to future situations. ‘Yun nga nangyayari sa atin ngayon, 33-year-old ‘yung ating Constitution but because of that very restrictive—in fact we have the most restrictive economic provisions in the entire world when you speak of our Constitution,” Garbin said.
“The result of it is we are lagging behind foreign direct investments and in order to encourage the flow of foreign capital then I think we need to lift it now and that’s also the consensus ng business groups,” he added.
Middle of pandemic
When asked why constitutional amendments will be discussed while the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Garbin said the Philippine economy is also a problem that has to be addressed.
To recall, in July 2020, then constitutional amendments panel chair Rodriguez announced that Cha-cha discussions are postponed until January or February 2021 so that the House can focus on the pandemic response and budget deliberations.
“Pero ang kasagutan nga ngayon sabi ni Speaker, we need to respond to the existing conditions. Talagang kailangan natin ng foreign direct investment and of course we are addressing the pandemic but we should also address the economy which is the bigger issue,” Garbin said.
“Kung walang trabaho ‘yung ating mga kababayan, walang pumapasok sa contribution sa ating ekonomiya, eh talagang mas malaking problema ‘yun. Therefore, sinama na ni Speaker. Sinama na ni Speaker as one of the priority in the legislative agenda,” he added.
Garbin also assured that controversial charter amendment proposals such as term extensions for lawmakers will not be discussed.
“If you look at the resolution of the Speaker, that is really only confined to that economic provision. It does not speak of any provisions that touch on the term limits or extension of any members of Congress or any elected officials for that matter. Walang intention ang ating Speaker,” Garbin said.
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