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Aquino: No to Charter change, but…

President Benigno Aquino III is firmly against making any amendments in the Constitution but is willing to hold discussions with congressional leaders who may want to change his mind, a Palace spokesperson said.

“It’s always good to hear the side of others who would hold a different view from the President,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said when asked if it Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s bid to convince President Aquino about the need for constitutional amendments would prove useless.

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“[It’s] never futile for allies to speak and discuss things,” he added. “As to what will be the outcome of that discussion is something that let’s wait and see. It hasn’t happened yet.”

Asked what would make President Aquino change his mind, Lacierda said, “It’s hard to say. The President has been firm in his belief that the Constitution as it stands needs no amendment.”

No tweaking needed

In a news briefing on Friday, Lacierda said Mr. Aquino believes the Constitution doesn’t need any tweak even if it’s only meant to improve the country’s economy.

“The President has already mentioned that he has not seen any argument saying that economic prosperity will not be achieved without amending the Constitution. But, again, [Enrile] likewise firmly believes that we need to amend the Constitution,” Lacierda said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang respects Enrile’s resolve in pushing for Charter change.

“If at all, it shows his firm belief in the need to amend the Constitution and his desire to discuss the matter with the President, which we respect,” she added.

In a recent interview with reporters, President Aquino pointed out that the 6.4-percent economic growth in the first quarter was enough evidence that the country doesn’t need to change the Constitution for the economy to move forward.

‘If it ain’t broke…’

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Mr. Aquino has also expressed concern over the possibility that even the political provisions of the Charter would be tackled for revision once the process of amending the Constitution gets underway.

“There is a saying among Americans… don’t fix what ain’t broke,” the President said.

President Aquino, nonetheless, said he’d listen to what Enrile and Belmonte have to say about the need for Charter change.

“You have to listen to different ideas and come up with what’s best for our people,” President Aquino said.

Militant legislators, however, oppose any changes in the Constitution.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Enrile and Belmonte were practically opening the door for China’s takeover of the Philippines by giving it unrestricted access to gobble up the country’s land and utilities.

“The proposed opening of the country to foreigners raises serious security issues which the proponents did not even research. Will China be allowed to maintain beach heads in Palawan and Batangas if it buys coastal lands in these provinces? Will China be allowed to buy Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) and other public utilities and hold us hostage if the Spratlys issue is not resolved?” asked Colmenares.

Colmenares said the 1987 Constitution was neither the cause of poverty nor the solution to the country’s bid for stable economic growth.

“The economic premise of those proposing to take out constitutional restrictions is one of the most baseless proposals ever made, not supported by any real research. In fact it is completely untrue because many of the economic miracles they cite are countries which also have restrictive or protectionist provisions,” said Colmenares.

Wrong models

Colmenares claimed that Belmonte and Enrile were pushing for 100 percent foreign ownership of land, public utilities, and natural resources, but the countries they cited as models such as Thailand, Australia, Brazil and China had not fully open their doors to foreign capital.

Nepal, Mongolia and Cambodia which allow unrestricted foreign ownership remain poor, he said.

In a related development, former allies of President Macapagal-Arroyo are supporting Belmonte’s initiative to amend the Constitution.

“We will support Charter change of the speaker,” said Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, president of the National Unity Party, the second biggest group in the House. NUP is made up of former members of Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi who have been the most vocal promoters of Charter change.

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TAGS: Cha-cha, Charter change, constitutional amendments, Feliciano Belmonte, Juan Ponce Enrile, Neri Colmenares, President Benigno Aquino III
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