Lacson twits Garbin on Cha-cha claims
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday again twitted the chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments for twisting the idea behind a Charter change (Cha-cha) measure the senator filed in 2018 suggesting that a mere committee of the bicameral legislature could declare itself a “constituent assembly.”
The senator mocked the latest claim of Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. that a resolution Lacson proposed during the 17th Congress supported his belief that the House committee could tackle constitutional amendments on its own.
“Forgive Congressman Garbin yet again … for he knows not what he says,” Lacson said, explaining the idea behind his proposed Senate Resolution No. 580.
Lacson explained the unapproved resolution that proposed constitutional amendments undergo the regular lawmaking process.
“This means proposed amendments to the Charter are to be tackled at the committee level first, then approved in the plenary, before both Houses convene into a constituent assembly,” he said.
“Nowhere in the resolution does it say that the con-ass (constituent assembly) is already constituted at the committee level,” Lacson added.
Lacson earlier disputed Garbin’s claim that his committee was already sitting as a constituent assembly even without the participation of the entire House or the Senate.
The senator said the Constitution decrees that any amendment to the Charter may be proposed by Congress—meaning the Senate and the House of Representatives—or a constitutional convention.
“Last time we heard, the Congress of the Philippines is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” the senator said.
Lacson, however, noted that Garbin already changed his tune and was now saying that Wednesday’s House deliberation was an “exercise of a constituent power rather than a constituent assembly.”
While Lacson does not oppose the idea of amending some provisions in the Constitution, he recently questioned the wisdom of “opening the floodgate” for Cha-cha if the objectives are not clear.
The members of the House of Representatives insisted that current moves to amend the bylaws was meant only to ease economic restrictions, but President Rodrigo Duterte himself has suggested making political amendments in order to cripple leftist representatives because of their alleged ties to communist rebels.
“If it’s true that Malacañang’s wish is only aimed at the Makabayan bloc in Congress for allegedly acting as legal and political fronts of the [Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army], they should be a little bit more creative in accomplishing that objective without opening the floodgate to possibly tinker with the Constitution in its entirety,” Lacson said earlier.
The business sector — particularly the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Makati Business Club — has also questioned the timing of moves to amend the Constitution, saying it was not wise to make the move when elections are only 15 months away.
Even Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Friday that an attempt to amend the Constitution at this time would only raise extremely divisive issues and it would be a better move forward to pass laws that would ease restrictions and encourage foreign investments.
But Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House ways and means committee, said that even if the House passes laws opening the country to foreign investment, the country would still remain among the most restrictive in the world.
“The House has already moved with the amendments to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act. They will open us up for foreign investment significantly,” he said in a statement.
“Even after such changes, we will still remain among the most restrictive to investments in the region because we cannot escape constitutional restrictions on foreign equity,” he said.
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