Barbers on Cha-cha: The time is now

Barbers on Cha-cha: The time is now

/ 02:50 PM December 20, 2023

Robert Ace Barbers

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers lead the hearing of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Photo from a video posted on the Facebook page of the House of Representatives)

MANILA, Philippines — Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers has maintained that the time to amend the 1987 Constitution is now, noting that the need to pass laws that will liberalize the economy indicates that the country’s basic law is flawed.

In a statement on Wednesday, Barbers explained that deliberating bills and then passing laws that would make the economy freer are a waste of resources because their constitutionality would eventually be questioned before the Supreme Court.


“Passing laws in the hope of curing the flaws of the Charter is an admission of the need to amend it. Even if Congress passes thousands of economic laws in contravention of the Constitution, nothing will change. They will be questioned before the Supreme Court,” Barbers said.


“It is a waste of valuable resources. It is an admission that the Charter has failed us economically, politically, and socially. What are we waiting for, to be at the bottom of the ladder?” he asked.

According to the lawmaker, the Philippines has been overtaken by its Southeast Asian peers, as the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions have been so restrictive that they bar foreign investments.

“In Asean alone, from (the) leader, we are now number 8 out of 10 nations. Vietnam and Cambodia have overtaken us. How much more in Asia and the world. We have to wake up from our deep slumber and constant denial for the need to change. It is time for a reality check. The time is now,” he added.

READ: House renews push for economic charter change

Barbers did not specifically mention what law was passed, but Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri mentioned last Sunday that instead of pushing for charter change, the government should just implement Republic Act No. 11659, which amended the Commonwealth-era Public Service Act (PSA).

But Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rufus Rodriguez — chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments — noted that this law is already facing legal questions as it supposedly goes against the 1987 Constitution.

Zubiri told the House that any attempt to change the 1987 Constitution would be an exercise in futility since most Senators are against it. For charter change to prosper, the Senate would need a two-thirds vote, which means 18 Senators must agree with the proposals.


READ: Rodriguez disputes Zubiri’s latest suggestion on Charter change 

READ: ‘We don’t need’ charter change yet – Zubiri 

Charter change talks were floated by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales after both expressed hope that such proposals would be considered in 2024 to open up the economy.

Romualdez’s call for charter change came months after he said that amending the Constitution — particularly provisions that block foreign economic investments and ownerships — would be the last piece of the puzzle for economic growth.

Barbers said he supports this call, noting that the same people have been opposing charter change when it is lawmakers, governors, and mayors — basically officials who can talk with their constituents regularly — who are calling for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

“Every time Cha-Cha is the topic, the same people oppose it, and they say the same thing. It is sad because they are not in touch with the people on the ground and are not attuned to their sentiments. Unlike Congressmen, Governors and Mayors who are working directly, closely and daily with their constituents, they do not have direct district constituents,” Barbers said.

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“That is the reason for their expected and usual reaction. On the other hand, we see the economic struggles of our constituents yet we can only do so much,” he added. “To say that a review is premature or that amendments are not needed at this time sounds like a broken record already because that has been their argument since 1995 when then President Ramos tinkered with the idea of reviewing the charter to make it responsive to our economic needs.”


Sen. Imee: I won’t defend ‘Aquino Constitution’, but no need to amend it now 

Gonzales: Cha-cha bid is not to make lawmakers become prime ministers 

TAGS: Cha-cha, House of Representatives, Robert Ace Barbers

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