Villafuerte hopes Senate panel can review Cha-cha proposal during break
MANILA, Philippines — Staunch Charter change supporter Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. LRay Villafuerte hopes senators can find time within the session break to review the constituent assembly (con-ass) proposal that Sen. Robinhood Padilla’s committee put forward.
Villafuerte in a statement on Wednesday referred to the committee report submitted by Padilla, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on constitutional amendments. Padilla last Friday released the unnumbered committee report containing the panel’s version of Charter change, which proposes a constituent assembly.
Although different from the House of Representatives’ version of charter change which prefers a constitutional convention (con-con), Villafuerte said the important thing is that proposals are discussed and given a chance.
“We are hoping our senators, especially the members of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes, can find time during our recess to consider the report of its chairman, Sen. Robin, endorsing constitutional reforms to do away with our 1987 Charter’s economic provisions that have restricted foreign ownership of, or participation in, Philippine businesses,” Villafuerte said.
“As what I have said before the congressional break, it’s beside the point whether the Senate would take a look at improving our Constitution by way of a con-con or con-ass. What is important at this stage is for the Senate to consider amendments to our flawed Constitution, so the 19th Congress can come up with a consolidated measure green-lighting a Charter makeover, preferably before 2023 is over,” he added.
According to Villafuerte, such proposals must be discussed because the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions have been restrictive, barring the entry of foreign direct investments which allegedly leads to lost opportunities.
“The important thing is for us lawmakers to keep the ball rolling on constitutional reforms, in the hope that we can do away soon enough with the restrictive economic provisions of our 36-year-old Charter that have put off investors and impeded the inrush of FDIs (foreign direct investments),” he noted.
The Senate Committee on constitutional amendments’ version varies from the House-approved proposal in terms of how charter change will be done: the Senate panel seeks a constituent assembly, where members of Congress would be sitting as delegates tasked to amend or revise the 1987 Constitution.
Meanwhile, Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6 and House Bill (HB) No. 7352 — approved by the House last March 6 and March 14, respectively — wants a hybrid constitutional convention where an elections would be held to identify members of the delegation.
The House proposal followed the suggestion of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, as some of the members would be appointed by the House Speaker and Senate President to ensure balance between political families and qualified delegates.
Villafuerte further said that House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s openness to the Senate’s perspective on constitutional reform should be enough for a meeting between the two chambers regarding the topic.
“Speaker Martin’s openness to any Senate proposal on how to pursue Constitutional reform, despite the supermajority support in the House for a con-con to pursue the makeover, augurs well for an early meeting between Cha-cha proponents in both chambers to try finding a common ground on how to do it before the year is over,” he said.
While the charter change proposal has garnered support in the House, there have been several sectors against it. Earlier, Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares pleaded to lawmakers to withdraw support from charter change given that a recent survey stated that more Filipinos are not in favor of amending the 1987 Constitution.
Colmenares also highlighted that the same survey results showed that more than three-fourths of Filipinos do not want amendments on foreign corporations to use the country’s natural resources.