Follow Cha-cha hearings, Senate urges public
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who is overseeing Charter change (Cha-cha) panel discussions in the Senate, urged the public on Sunday to closely watch the hearings on Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 6 to understand better the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“It would help if this early, voters can familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of amending the economic provisions of the Constitution, as they may have to vote on these changes that could have a direct impact on their lives,” said Angara, chair of the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes.
In a statement, he said the upside of the hearings was transparency.
“The public can watch them in real-time on the Senate’s YouTube channel, or whenever they’re free. They can hear the opinions and views of the legal and economic experts, and these will help voters form their own views about the need to amend our Constitution,” said Angara, who also heads the Senate finance committee.
The senator invited the public to weigh in on the discussion by sending their questions, concerns, or comments to his personal email account ([email protected]) so that the subcommittee could hear directly from the people.
“Aside from hearing different perspectives from the experts, voters can actually inform us about what they would like to know or air their concerns about the issues being raised by our resource persons,” he added.
The Senate subcommittee will hold its second hearing on Monday. Among those invited to attend are representatives from various government agencies and the business community.
RBH No. 6 seeks to lift economic restrictions in Articles 12, 14, and 16 of the Constitution, particularly prohibitions on foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institutions, and the advertising industry.
On Jan. 15, the measure was introduced by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and other Senate leaders in response to a controversial campaign for Charter change via people’s initiative, one of three ways to amend the Constitution.
Facts, not opinions
Interviewed on dzBB radio on Sunday, Sen. Francis Escudero urged resource persons invited to the Senate hearings, particularly those supporting the proposal, to present hard facts instead of just their personal opinions.
“I hope that our invited resource persons will not only express opinions. I hope whatever they say is based on solid research and solid data because each of us has our own opinion on whether those amendments are necessary or not. Let us compare data and not merely opinions,” he said in a radio interview.
“We have a principle in law that we follow, and all lawyers know this. He who alleges must prove the same. The one who claims that we need to do something, he should be the one to prove that we really need to do it,” he added.
During last week’s deliberations, resource persons, including former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, former National Economic and Development Authority Director General Gerardo Sicat and Singapore-based overseas Filipino worker Orion Dumdum, spoke in favor of Cha-cha.
But Escudero noted that Teves and Dumdum had only talked about their opinions.
During the first hearing on Feb. 5, Teves said lifting the restrictive economic provisions would send foreign businesses a clear and compelling message that their investments are welcome in the Philippines. Dumdum said he wanted to remove all constitutional provisions banning foreign direct investments.
‘Not a magic solution’
“It would be better to compare, …if you listen to what Mr. [Sonny] Africa of Ibon [Foundation] said, …everything that he said was based on data compared with other countries. He compared the economic performance data of different countries and the Philippines,” said Escudero.
During last week’s hearing, Africa argued that the 36-year-old Charter “isn’t perfect” but recognized the need for active government intervention to transform the economy and make it more industrialized, equitable, and sustainable.