Colmenares: We’re OK with constitutional amendments if it’s not about term extension
MANILA, Philippines — Despite what many may believe, long-time activist, lawyer, and former Bayan Muna lawmaker Neri Colmenares is not totally against amending the 1987 Constitution.
At the hearing of the House of Representatives’ Committee on constitutional amendments on Thursday, Colmenares clarified that he sees no problem with changing different parts of the Constitution, as long as it would not contain provisions about term extension of public officials.
“I’ve never been against any constitutional reforms, I agree, there is no rigid Constitution that cannot be changed […] But for me, the current state of things does not augur well for a constitutional reform move,” he said.
“Ang sabi sa akin ng mga kasamahan ko sa debate, ‘Neri naman, lahat ng Cha-cha [Charter change] ina-against mo.’ Sabi ko naman ‘lahat kasi ng Cha-cha kinakargahan niyo eh, ‘wag niyong kargahan and we will be happy to reform the Constitution,’” he added, referring to the added provision on term limits.
(Those who were with me in the debates said “Neri, you’re always against charter change.” I told them: “all of the charter change proposals are charged with term limit extensions, don’t charge it with that and we will be happy to reform the constitution.”)
Colmenares was referring to Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, authored by Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., which proposes a five-year term for House of Representatives lawmakers, eligible for a single reelection.
It would also require that a president and a vice president be voted jointly, for a five year term, eligible for another reelection.
According to Colmenares, it would be hard to sell to the public any constitutional amendment that would entail removal or the stretching of term limits.
“‘Pag makita po ng taumbayan na may term extension na naman, you know, medyo mahirap po natin i-argue sa tao. So actually, there are two sides here who have been doing these for years now. One side keeps on proposing the same things through the years, and the other side keeps on opposing that,” he said.
(If the people see that term extension is there again, you know, it would be hard to argue with the people about that.)
“So it’s not actually the fault of the oppositors but it’s actually the way of things. Kasi others can also say nadesisyonan na ng taumbayan uulitin na naman natin, so uulit ‘yong debate po. So for me, ‘yong ano lang naman d’yan, siguro naman wala namang nag-argue that there’s no need for such, kun’di ang issue lang po ng timing niya, content,” he added.
(So, it’s not actually the fault of the opposition, but it’s actually the way of things. Because others may also say that this issue has been decided in the past but we’ll bring it out again, so the debates go on a repeat. So for me, I think no one argues that there is no need for such, but the issue is merely on the timing and the content.)
Colmenares and other resource persons like constitutionalist and lawyer Christian Monsod have expressed concerns about amending the constitution.
Earlier, Monsod said that amending the 1987 Constitution just because of the prevalence of political dynasties is a lame excuse by Congress, as the legislative could have crafted a bill against it already.
Furthermore, Monsod — one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution — noted that it is ironic to scrap the said fundamental law when it is the first constitution created freely by Filipinos.
Colmenares for his part also noted that if the reason why the constitution would be amended is to allow foreign direct investments (FDIs) and foreign ownership of business and lands, other Asian countries like South Korea and Taiwan managed to progress without the need for huge FDIs.