House resumes Cha-cha debates
MANILA, Philippines — Amid criticisms on the timing of talks on constitutional amendments due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the House of Representatives on Wednesday resumed its debates on charter change (Cha-cha).
The House committee on constitutional amendments started its deliberations on Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, which was filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco as early as July 2019.
Panel chair Alfredo Garbin Jr. earlier said the committee will only tackle “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Amendments to political provisions will not be entertained as it does not have the support of the majority, he said.
Under Resolution of Both Houses No. 2, the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” would be added to the constitutional restrictions that limit the participation of foreign investors in the governing body of entities based on their proportionate share in the capital.
The same phrase would likewise be added to provisions saying only Filipino citizens can control, own, and/or lease alienable lands, public utilities, educational institutions, mass media companies, and advertising companies in the country.
The addition of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” means Congress would be given the power to pass laws easing foreign investment restrictions in the country.
RBH 2 would call both the House and the Senate to convene into a Constituent Assembly, one of the three allowed modes in changing the Constitution, to amend these economic provisions.
Velasco earlier said foreign investments would help offset the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, especially to the country’s economy.
“Foreign investment plays a crucial role in the Philippine economy by supporting domestic jobs and the creation of physical and knowledge capital across a range of industries. The need to attract foreign capital is critical to support our economy’s recovery from COVID-19,” he earlier said in a statement.
Leaders of political groups and power blocs in the House have backed the move to relax constitutional restrictions on foreign investors.
To recall, in July 2020, then constitutional amendments panel chair Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus 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.
Talks on charter amendments recently came to the fore after President Rodrigo Duterte suggested in a meeting with leaders of both houses of Congress and the military in November that the Senate and the House of Representatives convene to amend the constitutional provision on sectoral representation through the party list system.
The President, quoted Sotto, wanted “this problem with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) solved. The best way is that we remove the party list system, or change it in the constitution so we can call for a constituent assembly and amend that.”
But Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed it is unwise to discuss cha-cha at this time, if the goal is only to cripple the Makabayan bloc, whose organizations are perceived to be the legal fronts of the communist movement.
“Ito na iyong sinasabi natin na kahit noong nag-uumpisa pa lang iyong pandemic, ang dami nating inasikasong kung ano-ano na hindi naman related sa pandemic. Ito iyong dahilan kung bakit maraming mga Pilipino iyong naghihirap ngayon,” Robredo said.
Even administration ally Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor claimed that the proposal to amend the charter, even if only for its economic provisions, could bring problem in the House as it will cause division among lawmakers, adding that now is not the proper time to discuss it considering the pandemic gripping the country.
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